Jailed Saudi princess fears coronavirus risk in prison
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A year after landing in jail without charge, her mercy plea unanswered by Saudi rulers and in fear of a coronavirus outbreak behind bars, a prominent princess did the unthinkable — and went public.
Princess Basmah bint Saud, a 56-year-old royal family member long seen as a proponent of women’s rights and a constitutional monarchy, mysteriously disappeared from public life in March last year.
Last month, her Twitter account sprang to life with a letter from the princess claiming she had been “abducted” and “thrown into prison” along with her 28-year-old daughter, Suhoud al-Sharif, and imploring King Salman and his powerful son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for help.
The letter, a rare public appeal from a member of the secretive royal family, voiced fears that her “deteriorating health” in Riyadh’s high-security Al-Ha’ir prison — known for holding terrorism convicts and political prisoners — could result in her death.
Just hours later, those tweets were deleted.
Two sources close to her family told AFP the account had been briefly hacked “by someone in Saudi Arabia”.
“Since the tweets, there is no more contact; no signs of the princess or Suhoud,” one of the sources said.
“No more phone calls, nothing.”
The family’s fears have been further amplified by concerns over a possible outbreak of the novel coronavirus inside Al-Ha’ir.
Allowed one weekly telephone call before the tweets, Suhoud told her family that prison authorities had sounded the alarm that coronavirus cases had been detected inside the facility.
A prison employee separately confirmed to the family that there were a handful of COVID-19 cases in Al-Ha’ir, the sources said.
Authorities in Saudi Arabia, which has reported more than 25,000 coronavirus infections so far, did not respond to a request for comment.
The government has said nothing publicly about the princess’s detention. (AFP)