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Saudi princess freed after three years in jail: Report

Princess Basmah bint Saud and her daughter were released after having been imprisoned since 2019 without charge or trial
Saudi Princess Basmah Bint Saud speaks during a discussion on the role of women in the Middle East at the Middle East Institute in Washington on 12 April 2017 (AFP/File photo)

Saudi authorities have released Princess Basmah bint Saud, 57, and her daughter who had been held without charge for nearly three years in the capital, a human rights group said on Saturday. 

Alqst for Human Rights, in a post to Twitter on Saturday, said Princess Basmah "and her daughter Suhoud... have been released". 

Princess Basmah is a member of the Saudi royal family long seen as a proponent of women's rights and a constitutional monarchy. She had been detained since March 2019. 

Denied medical care

In April 2020, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were implored to release her on health grounds.

"She was denied the medical care she needed for a potentially life threatening condition," Alqst said in Saturday's post. "At no point during her detention has any charge been levelled against her." 

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Saudi officials were not immediately available to comment on the case.

Princess Basmah was arrested shortly before a planned trip to Switzerland for medical treatment, according to a source close to the family. 

The nature of her illness has never been disclosed. 

In July, representatives of the family of Princess Basmah filed an appeal with UN experts at the Human Rights Council requesting that the world body intervene in her case and alleging that her treatment "may amount to torture". 

'An outspoken critic'

Prince Mohammed has overseen a reform drive since he was appointed by his father King Salman in June 2017 at the expense of the previously designated heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Nayef.

Reforms have included lifting a decades-long ban on women driving and the easing of so-called "guardianship" rules that give men arbitrary authority over female relatives.

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But Saudi authorities have also cracked down on dissidents and even potential opponents, ranging from preachers to women's rights activists, even royals

Princess Basmah was kept in Al-Ha'ir prison, where numerous other political detainees have been held. 

In written testimony to the United Nations in 2020, seen by AFP, her family said her detention was likely due in large part to her "record as an outspoken critic of abuses".

She has also been deemed an ally of Mohammed bin Nayef, the written testimony added.

In November 2017, a vast anti-corruption campaign saw Riyadh's luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel serve for three months as a de facto detention centre for dozens of princes and senior officials suspected of graft or disloyalty.

In March 2020, the royal guard arrested King Salman's brother and nephew, accusing them of fomenting a coup against Prince Mohammed, according to several sources.