Who is princess Basma bint Saud? Why did Mohammad bin Salman set her free?

Riyadh: Winds of change seem to be blowing in Saudi Arabia as authorities released a 57-year-old princess and her daughter from jail after three years.
Basma bint Saud, 57, who was a vocal supporter of women’s rights in the kingdom, was detained in March 2019. Later human rights groups urged King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to release her on health grounds.

“Basma bint Saud Al Saud and her daughter Suhoud… have been released,” the ALQST for Human Rights said on Twitter.

“She was denied the medical care she needed for a potentially life-threatening condition,” the rights group added. “At no point during her detention has any charge been leveled against her.”

Saudi officials were not immediately available to comment on the case.

Princess Basmah was arrested shortly before a planned trip to Switzerland for medical treatment, according to a source close to the family. The nature of her illness has never been disclosed.

Princess Basmah was kept in Al-Ha’ir prison, where numerous other political detainees have been held.

In written testimony to the United Nations in 2020, her family had said her detention was likely due in large part to her “record as an outspoken critic of abuses”.

She has also deemed an ally of Mohammed bin Nayef, who was supposed to ascend to the throne before he was pushed back to accommodate Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

In November 2017, a vast anti-corruption campaign saw Riyadh’s luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel serve for three months as a de facto detention center for dozens of princes and senior officials suspected of graft or disloyalty. In March 2020, the royal guard arrested King Salman’s brother and nephew, accusing them of fomenting a coup against Prince Mohammed, according to several sources.

Prince Mohammed bi Salman has taken a number of steps to do away with the kingdom’s hardline Islamist image since he was named as the legal heir to the crown.

He has lifted the ban on women driving and the easing of so-called “guardianship” rules that give men arbitrary authority over female relatives.