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Monday, 23 April, 2001, 19:37 GMT 20:37 UK
Egyptian anger over Saudi princess
King Fahd Abdel Aziz
The princess is related by marriage to King Fahd
By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

The authorities in Egypt have defended themselves against mounting public criticism that they are being too lenient with a Saudi princess convicted of failing to pay for jewellery worth more than $1m.

Hind al-Fassi was sentenced to three years in jail with hard labour in February, but she is still at large.

An Interior Ministry official said she had not yet been arrested because she was still allowed to appeal the verdict.

Princess Hind
Wife of a brother of King Fahd
Has lived in Cairo for 10 years
Allegations of mistreating employees
Previously sentenced to one year in jail for stealing $2.3m
The case of the Saudi princess is proving a growing embarrassment to the Egyptian authorities who have now been called to account in parliament for their failure to arrest her.

One MP accused the government of negligence in applying the law.

Appeals must usually be made within 10 days of a defendant being notified of their conviction.

But several weeks have now passed since Hind al-Fassi was found guilty in her absence of not paying for more than $1m worth of jewellery collected by an aide.

Royal treatment

Whatever the government's reasons for not pursuing the case more vigorously, there is a widespread feeling that she has been given special treatment because of her links to the Saudi royal family which is a close ally of the Egyptian government.

The Princess and her husband, Turki ibn Abdel Aziz, who is a brother of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, live at the top of a luxury hotel overlooking the Nile.

They have also been at the centre of a series of allegations of mistreating their staff.

In 1998, several of their servants tried to escape saying they'd been treated as virtual prisoners. One broke his back when he fell from a rope made of knotted sheets.

To many Egyptians struggling to make ends meet, the couple symbolise the immunity that they believe power can buy.

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See also:

28 Feb 01 | Middle East
Saudi princess guilty of jewellery theft
08 Feb 01 | Middle East
Getting a drink in Saudi Arabia
02 Dec 00 | Middle East
Saudi Arabia's challenges
08 Dec 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Saudi Arabia's castle of sand
21 Dec 00 | Middle East
Timeline: Saudi Arabia
21 Sep 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Egypt
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