In Brief

Everything we know about the princess held hostage by billionaire ruler of Dubai

Princess Latifa tried to flee emirate in 2018 but now ‘fears for her life’ after being captured

The daughter of Dubai’s ruler has accused her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, of holding her “hostage” in secret videos smuggled to friends.

In footage aired by BBC Panorama, Princess Latifa al-Maktoum claims that she was “drugged” by army commandos while trying to flee the emirate by boat in 2018, before being “carried on to a private jet” that landed in Dubai.

In messages recorded inside a bathroom, Latifa says she “fought back against the soldiers taking her off the boat, ‘kicking and fighting’ and biting one Emirati commando’s arm until he screamed”, the BBC reports.

She adds that since being returned to Dubai, she has been “held alone without access to medical or legal help in a villa with windows and doors barred shut, and guarded by police”, the broadcaster adds.

Latifa has attempted to flee Dubai twice, but was recaptured eight days after her latest effort in which she “used a rubber dinghy to reach a yacht anchored in international waters”, The Guardian reports. “The ship was raided by Indian commandos and she was handed back to her father, Sheikh Mohammed”, though India has never publicly commented on its role.

Dubai and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have previously claimed that she is safe in the care of family, however, friends of the princess have called on the UN to intervene after the smuggled messages stopped. 

Boris Johnson said today that he was “concerned” about the situation, while Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab responded to whether the UK would ask for proof that Latifa was still alive by saying: “Given what we’ve just seen, I think people would just at a human level want to see that she’s alive and well.”

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has pledged to “raise these new developments with the UAE”. A spokesperson said: “Other parts of the UN human rights system with relevant mandates may also become involved once they have analysed the new material or received specific allegations.”

Sheikh Mohammed is one of the richest heads of state in the world and occupies the roles of ruler of Dubai and vice-president of the UAE. He has “built a hugely successful city but rights activists say there is no tolerance of dissent and the judicial system can discriminate against women”, the BBC says.

In 2019, his second wife Princess Haya bint Hussein fled Dubai with two of his children to reside in the United Kingdom, prompting a High Court battle to have them return to the emirate which ultimately failed.

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