Saudi Arabia releases dissident princess Basma who criticized Mohammad bin Salman: she remained in cell for 3 years

The princess was released from prison on 6 January in an unexpected way Basma bint Saud bin Abdulaziz al Saud, daughter of the second ruler ofSaudi Arabia (from 1953 to 1964) Saud bin Abdulaziz al Saud, entrepreneur and above all cousin of the current heir to the throne Mohammad bin Salman (Mbs) who had ordered his arrest in March 2019. This was announced by the princess’s lawyer, Henri Estramant, confirming the release of Souhud al Sharif, daughter of Basma, who was taken by the Saudi authorities together with her mother almost three years ago from their home in Jeddah, where they returned on this day.

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The reasons behind his release from what the lawyer Estramant called one are not entirely clear “Arbitrary detention”, but its history adds to that of many others political dissidents – also numerous members of the royal family – arrested in recent years by Mbs. Basma was imprisoned in the jail of Al Ha’ir, near Riyad, the same one in which she was incarcerated Luojain Al Hathloul, famous activist for the right to drive to Saudi women, released last February. Al Hathloul hasn’t made any statements since, and her family confirmed that the 32-year-old suffered torture while in custody.

A few years ago also Basma, who never had official positions in the Kingdom and lived mostly in London, on various international media had criticized the judicial system Saudi, based on the Wahhabi interpretation of the Shari’a, however, not suffering direct consequences for these views. During an interview given in 2018 to the Bbc, Basma had accused Mbs, without naming him, of being little tolerant with those who expressed doubts or criticisms regarding his reform program, called Vision 2030. As the New York Times, the Saudi government has never publicly commented on the case of Basma but in 2020 the Saudi diplomatic mission to the United Nations he had generically linked his arrest to “crimes related to the attempt to illegally leave the Kingdom“.

At the time of the arrest, a relative of Basma had stated that the princess was “suspected” of having attempted forge a passport, although she has never been notified of any official accusations. However, it is perhaps also on this pretext that the Saudi authorities continue not to grant the right to expatriate: a very problematic aspect, says his lawyer, because the daughter of the former Saudi king, 57, has been suffering from serious heart problems in need of treatment not available in Saudi Arabia.

Other members of the royal family (including two sons of the former king) are in much worse conditions, such as Mohammad bin Nayef, former Saudi prime minister, removed from his position by MBS, who thus wanted to oust him from the race to the throne, and arrested in March 2020. According to his lawyers, Mohammad bin Nayef was first held in isolation and then subjected to different forms of torture, as the sleep deprivation o la upside down suspension for the ankles. Now 62, Mohammad bin Nayef has no access to television or the internet and has only been able to communicate with family members on a few occasions. He walks with the help of a cane and since last autumn he has been doing it no longer inside a cell but in a villa within a complex adjacent to the royal palace of Al Yamama, in Riyadh, where he was transferred.

Always in a villa, or rather, in a “seven-star” residential complex, as it was defined in a sensational investigation of the Guardian, instead, some of the material authors of the journalist’s murder would reside Jamal Khashoggi, ordered by Mbs in 2018. Mustafa al Madani, Mansour Abhussein and the coroner, famous for dissecting Khashoggi’s body, Salah al Tubaigy they were all seen inside this compound managed directly by Saudi intelligence, equipped with every comfort, and in which in theory they would be serving a sentence for the murder perpetrated within the Saudi consulate of Istanbul.

The news of their “prison holiday” is however almost contemporary with the umpteenth tension between France e Turkey, linked to the release by the French police who arrested him at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris on 7 December last, of a man initially identified as Khaled Aedh Al Otaibi, and linked to the Khashoggi murder. After the French Gendarmerie let the suspect go, citing an identity exchange, the Turkish authorities – involved in several investigations into the murder of the Saudi-American journalist – promptly commented, claiming that he was instead the right man, abruptly released.

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