- Princess Basmah, a Saudi royal who was abducted in March 2019, surfaced for the first time on Thursday, tweeting to ask Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – her cousin – for mercy.
- “Release me as I have done no wrong,” Basmah tweeted. “I am currently being arbitrarily held at Al-Ha’ir prison without criminal, or otherwise any charges against my person.”
- Basmah was abducted “on suspicion of trying to flee the country” ahead of a trip to Switzerland for urgent medical care.
- Insider has spoken to a close family member of Basmah and another person familiar with her finances. Both asked to remain anonymous to avoid retribution but their identities are known to us.
- The family member told Insider that Basmah’s detention is an attempt to derail her efforts to unfreeze assets promised to her father.
- “Two weeks before her travel to Geneva, a group of men turned up in the lobby of her apartment building in Jeddah. She was told there was a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed. They took her straight to the prison,” the family member said.
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A disappeared Saudi princess, who was abducted 13 months ago and accused of trying to flee the country, emerged on Thursday for the first time to ask her cousin Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for mercy on Twitter.
Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz al-Saud was taken “on suspicion of trying to flee the country” in March 2019 as she tried to fly to Switzerland to receive urgent medical care.
The medically equipped private plane, rented for $87,000 from Redstar Aviation, never left. She has not been publicly seen or heard from since.
A close family member told Insider that Basmah was sent to al-Ha’ir prison by Saudi state security, which accused her of procuring a fake passport, a claim she denies. The family member asked to remain anonymous to avoid retribution but their identity is known to Insider.
But on Thursday, a string of tweets posted from Basmah’s verified account cast light on her location and wellbeing.
“I am currently being arbitrarily held at Al-Ha’ir prison without criminal, or otherwise any charges against my person,” the tweet said.
Basmah does not have access to her own phone, and her royal office sent the tweets on her behalf, the family member said.
“My health is deteriorating to an extent that is [severe], and that could lead to my death. I have not received medical care,” the tweet said.
“I am beseeching my uncle, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin AbdulAziz al-Saud, and my cousin, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to review my case, and to release me as I have done no wrong,” a second tweet said.
“My current health status is VERY critical.”
A family member told Insider Basmah’s detention is an attempt to derail her efforts to claim her inheritance
Basmah is the youngest daughter of King Saud, who ruled Saudi Arabia from 1953 to 1964 until his brother Faisal deposed him. Crown Prince Mohammed is the son of King Salman, another brother of King Saud who became king in 2015.
The family member said Basmah’s detention is an attempt to deter her from pursuing her claim on frozen assets that were promised to her father, King Saud, by his father King Abdulaziz, the country’s founder.
They hold the value of “billions of euros,” a person working with Basmah, who has knowledge of King Saud’s frozen assets, told Insider. They also asked to remain anonymous to avoid retribution but their identity is known to Insider.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, DC, and the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in London did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment on this story.
Basmah had attempted to secure support from her family to unfreeze the rights to “bank accounts, lands, jewelry, cars, and houses,” the person said.
However, the person alleged a number of family members have opposed Basmah’s attempts to seize the lands, and some of the assets have been unfrozen and spent without proper authorization.
For example, the site of Taif University is in theory built on land entitled to Basmah. The family says the university can stay, but that she wants compensation.
“We were all shocked, how this happened and how they had dared to that,” the family member said of Basmah’s abduction.
“There are many haters and jealous people. They are who they are.”
Saudi officials had told Basmah to “let go of all of this or we’re going to keep you,” the relative told Insider, adding: “Three months after she got to jail she was given a paper telling her there were no charges against her.”
The inside story of Basmah’s abduction
“Two weeks before her travel to Geneva, a group of men turned up in the lobby of her apartment building in Jeddah. She was told there was a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed. They took her straight to the prison,” the family member told Insider.
The family member also confirmed to Insider the authenticity of a February 28 security tape obtained this week by Spanish newspaper ABC.
The video shows a group of eight large men, armed with at least two handguns, waiting in the lobby of the building in which Basmah lived.
The men notice the security cameras, and hasten to cover them with napkins.
Basmah and her daughter Suhoud, a 28-year-old filmmaker, were seized shortly after, according to the family member and ABC.
The source with knowledge of Basmah’s finances alleged that the official overseeing Basmah’s detention is believed to be Abdulaziz al-Huwerani, head of Saudi Arabia’s state security.
It is not known if Crown Prince Mohammed or King Salman are aware of Basmah’s detention. The letter Basmah wrote to King Salman, a copy of which was reviewed by Insider, did not receive a response.
Basmah’s family fears for her health, especially during the coronavirus pandemic
Al-Ha’ir is a prison that usually houses those charged with terrorism offenses linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS.
“She is in a room, that has two beds, a couch, and a TV,” the family member told Insider, adding that her daughter was in a separate room.
“I spoke with her [Basmah] twice or three times a week. It is monitored. I have not seen her, not a picture, nor video, for more than a year. Nothing can be passed on.”
Basmah’s family is worried for her health amid the coronavirus outbreak in Saudi Arabia – the princess has a number of health conditions and is unwell. The family also said cases of the virus have been found at al-Ha’ir prison.
“The doctors told her they cannot cure her conditions. For the past month they have not been sending doctors,” the family member told Insider. “The medication she has taken from 20 years, they have not provided for her. What they’re trying to do is show that she died all by herself.”
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions sent an “urgent request” for Basmah’s release to the Saudi Foreign Minister last week, the source with knowledge of her finances told Insider.
The UN did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Basmah is well known for her advocacy and theories on human rights.
She founded the media company Media Ecco in 2008 and authored “The Fourth Way,” a book that posited four essentials for the advancement of human rights: security, freedom, equality, and education.
The princess regularly wrote articles about human rights advancement and humanitarianism in the Arab newspapers al-Medina, al-Hayat, and al-Ahram.