Outspoken Saudi Princess Held Under House Arrest Without Charge

Published November 20th, 2019 - 07:07 GMT
Prominent Saudi Princess Basmah bint Saud  (Twitter)
Prominent Saudi Princess Basmah bint Saud (Twitter)
Critics labelled Prince Mohammed's campaign a shakedown and power grab, but authorities insisted the purge targeted endemic corruption as the country tried to move to a post-oil era.

An outspoken Saudi princess who it is feared went 'missing' seven months ago is reportedly being held under house arrest without charge along with her daughter.

Princess Basmah bint Saud 'fell off the radar' after being stopped from travelling to Switzerland for emergency medical treatment at the end of last year.

The businesswoman and human rights activist was trying to fly to Geneva in December 2018 and was then arrested in March this year 'on suspicion of trying to flee the country', according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Her alleged house arrest comes as critics of the Saudi regime, including members of the royal family, have mysteriously disappeared, been jailed and intimidated.

Last year hundreds of suspects were held at the luxury Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh as de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, cracked down on dissidents and consolidated his power.

Critics labelled Prince Mohammed's campaign a shakedown and power grab, but authorities insisted the purge targeted endemic corruption as the country tried to move to a post-oil era.

Princess Basmah is the youngest daughter of King Saud who ruled the kingdom from 1953 until 1964 as its second ruler.

The 55-year-old, who is also the granddaughter of Saudi Arabia's first ruler, King Abdul Aziz, was due to fly to Geneva, but her plane never left.

Despite being given clearance to fly last December, her aircraft was grounded and she was arrested three months later, according to Leonard Bennett, a US lawyer who arranged the trip. 

Saudi authorities were reportedly suspicious that the mother-of-five's flight was due to pass through Turkey, which was an enemy of Saudi Arabia at the time.

According to reports she was believed to be fleeing the kingdom and has not been seen in public since. 

Princess Basmah and her adult daughter are now said to be under constant surveillance as part of their house arrest in the capital, Riyadh. 

Bennett said: 'She just fell off the radar. No one knew where she was. We actually feared the worst.'

He claims that two months of continuous efforts to contact the princess, Bennett finally managed to get through and she sounded 'very much like a hostage', DW reports. 

A friend and business colleague who did not want to be named, confirmed the princess had been 'missing' since March, and said Bin Salman and the ruling family must know what happened to her.

The source told DW: 'A couple of sources there say they don't think the number one [MBS] knows, but I disagree. He does know, so we want to know what his position is. Why is she being detained?'

In 2013, Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz al Saud, as she is known in full, claimed she was being blackmailed out of £320,000 for criticising the the Saudi regime.

She said a video of her blowing a kiss and smoking with her head uncovered - taboos in the strict Islamic kingdom - would have released by a 'sheikh in his 30s from the UAE' if she did not pay up.

Since an interview with BBC Arabic last January in which she called for an end to the Saudi war in Yemen, Princess Basmah has made no major media appearances.

After her divorce in around 2010 she relocated to London, where she became outspoken about Saudi policies and attacks on critics. 

In 2012, the princess told the BBC she was saddened that Saudi Arabia had not followed through with her father's plans to reform the monarchy and separate the role of king from that of the prime minister. 

Mohammed bin Salman has been accused of being behind the order to murder Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Turkish consulate last October.

He denies being involved and claims the killing was carried out but rogue forces in the country's secret services. 

A United Nations report earlier this year said that Saudi Arabia bore responsibility for Khashoggi's death and said the crown prince's possible role in it should be investigated. 

In Washington, Congress has said it believes the crown prince is 'responsible for the murder'. 

Bin Salman said in September that he takes 'full responsibility' for the murder of Khashoggi as it happened 'under my watch', but denied allegations he ordered the killing. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

You may also like