Dutch Prince shows signs of "minimal consciousness"

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch Prince Johan Friso, who has been in a coma ever since he was buried in an avalanche while skiing earlier this year, has shown occasional signs of minimal consciousness, the Dutch government said on Monday.

Queen Beatrix's 44-year-old middle son, who gave up his right to the throne a decade ago, was skiing off-piste near Lech in the Austrian Alps in February, when he was caught in an avalanche.

The accident attracted considerable media attention at the time. Prince Friso was trapped under the snow for 25 minutes before he was pulled out unconscious. His doctors said his brain was starved of oxygen while he was under the snow which resulted in a cardiac arrest that lasted 50 minutes.

He was later flown to London, where he remains, for treatment but doctors said he had suffered severe brain damage and might never come out of a coma.

He has recently shown "occasional signs of minimal consciousness", the royal family and the prince's wife said in a statement released by the government, although they did not give any details and added that the prognosis remains very uncertain.

Prince Friso, whose older brother is Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, gave up his right to the Dutch throne when he married a commoner whose past was considered too racy for her to become a member of the Dutch royal house.

When he asked for permission in 2003 to marry Mabel Wisse Smit, Dutch media published details of her relationship with mobster Klaas Bruinsma, who was shot and killed in 1991 in front of the Amsterdam Hilton hotel.

Following the revelations, the couple decided not to get official permission for their marriage.

(Reporting by Sara Webb, editing by Paul Casciato)