A senior Saudi royal says she and a daughter are being held in a Riyadh prison without charge despite repeated pleas to her cousin, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz al-Saud—a granddaughter of Saudi Arabia's founding monarch and the youngest daughter of King Saud, who ruled from 1953 to 1964—demanded their release in a series of tweets late Wednesday, per the BBC, though they have since been deleted. Her plea, said to have come from inside al-Ha'ir prison, surprised some extended family members. While the 52-year-old human rights advocate hadn't been seen in more than a year, per the Guardian, some senior royals believed she was recovering from an illness, while others thought she was under house arrest.
It's now believed Basmah and her daughter were detained while trying to leave the country for Switzerland in March 2019. Basmah, who claimed the trip was for urgent medical treatment, now describes her health as "deteriorating to an extent that is severe, and that could lead to my death," per the BBC. She claims to have not received medical care. Human Rights Watch says the case is further evidence that the crown prince is working to silence "all forms of critics," but especially women. Basmah, who previously lived in London, called on Saudi Arabia to swap its absolute monarchy for a constitutional monarchy, as in the UK. She also worked to advance women's rights in the country and advocated for restraint in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. (Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)