A source close to Princess Basma bint Saud’s family revealed that she is in dire need of medical care, with calls for the United States and Europe to pressure for her release.
The source told MEE that concerns were growing about the health and safety of the detained Saudi Princess Basma bint Saud, who has reportedly been held incommunicado since early last year and previously denied access to medical treatment.
The source said that contacts between family members and Princess Basma, a businesswoman and granddaughter of the country’s founding King Abdulaziz bin Saud, were cut off in May 2020 after the 57-year-old king appealed to King Salman and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to release her from a notorious prison in series of tweets.
“We can’t communicate with her – we can’t talk to her… [لكننا نعلم] She needs serious medical attention.”
The mystery of Princess Basma’s illness
Details of Princess Basma’s illness are still unclear, but a person close to the family said that she underwent surgery before she was detained.
Henry Estramant, a friend and legal advisor to the family, said Princess Basma was denied medical care and medication when she was first detained in April 2019.
Speaking to MEE, he told MEE: “I have been treated in Switzerland for five years or more for a heart condition. She did not get the medical treatment she needed in prison.”
Basma was reportedly arrested from her home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in March 2019 and imprisoned with her daughter, Saud Al Sharif.
According to Estramant, no charges have been brought against the mother or daughter.
“Spin in circles”
Basma has earned a reputation as an outspoken member of the Saudi royal family, having in the past called on the country to adopt a constitutional monarchy.
She also criticized the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice and spoke about women’s issues and human rights, including the Saudi-led coalition’s war on Yemen.
News of her arrest emerged just weeks after the arrest of a number of Saudi princes as part of a mass purge campaign by Mohammed bin Salman, and those arrests included the family’s top dissident Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.
Read also: The real reason behind Ibn Salman’s arrest of his cousin Princess Basma
The crown prince’s purge was followed by a crackdown on prominent clerics, intellectuals, academics, and human rights activists.
Last year, the Saudi princess spoke for the first time since her disappearance and pleaded with Mohammed bin Salman to release her during the holy month of Ramadan.
She had made it clear in a series of tweets that she was being arbitrarily detained in Al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh and that her health was deteriorating.
While it is not clear what the charges against her. Streement said he believed her detention was related to her calls for reform in the kingdom, an allegation Riyadh rejected.
The source close to the family said that the lack of a clear understanding of the charges against her, as well as the lack of communication, made it difficult to defend her and release her daughter.
“We’ve been going around in circles and circles for the past two years,” he said.
He added, “It was not easy at all. We’ve been trying to work day in and day out, seeing how we can release them.”
Pressure the United States to intervene
Two years after Princess Basma’s arrest began, the family is calling on the Biden administration to advocate and pressure Riyadh to release her.
Estramant said he had been in contact with management and was calling on them to intervene.
“The one thing we’re asking of the Biden administration is that it says to its Saudi partners, ‘We know about these Prime Time Zone, you’re holding them in prison completely disproportionately, you don’t condemn them. Can you let them go?” according to Estramante
And that’s too simple for the Biden administration as for Secretary Blinken. They have influence because the crown prince knows that this administration is very different from the previous administration and that he does not have their unconditional support.”
The problem, Estramant said, is that the administration “is not very active. They don’t do much in the Middle East.”
Since Joe Biden’s election to office, a number of Saudi women activists have been released, including two who were released earlier this week.
The family hopes this momentum in the releases will extend to Princess Basma, with some pressure from Washington.
A unified message to Saudi Arabia
A US State Department spokesperson told MEE that the Biden administration was “aware of the issue and included it in the most recent human rights report” published in March.
“Human rights are central to this administration’s foreign policy, and the Biden administration emphasizes respect for human rights in our bilateral relations, including with our Saudi partners,” the spokesperson said, without answering whether it would demand the release of Princess Basma.
Estramant, along with MEP Eva Kayle, also sent a letter to European Council President Charles Michel, asking him to take over Basma’s case and imprison her daughter. The letter stated that “the case of Princess Basma and her daughter is very simple as no charges have been brought against them despite the accusations that It is easy to penetrate.”
They added: “We ask that you release her and allow contact with her immediate family and friends in Saudi Arabia and abroad. She has not received legal counsel since her arrest in 2019.”
Kelly, a member of the European delegation on relations with the Arabian Peninsula, told MEE that a joint call from the US and Europe for Basma’s release “will strengthen our message to Saudi Arabia.”
“If we have this opportunity to establish a collaboration with this administration, and to show that we raise the same awareness, we hope to make progress,” Kylie said.
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