Updated: March 4, 2021 10:37:00 am
This week, Princess Latifa who is the daughter of Dubai’s billionaire ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum has urged the UK police to reopen and investigate the kidnapping of her older sister, Princess Shamsa, in a letter she has shared with the BBC.
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So what is happening?
Last week, in videos that were published by the BBC, Princess Latifa alleged that she was kidnapped. She claimed that she is being kept hostage by her father in a villa converted into a jail and added she has no access to medical aid. She also alleged that she is in “solitary confinement” without any trial or charges against her.
An investigation led by the BBC revealed the videos were apparently recorded in a bathroom and were taken over the course of several months on a phone Latifa was given about a year after she returned to Dubai in 2018. In the videos, Latifa speaks of how she tried to fight back against commandos when she was being captured and that she was “tranquilised”. She says since her return to Dubai, she has been held alone without any medical or legal aid.
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Latifa’s account of her capture and subsequent detention was revealed by her friend Tiina Jauhianen, her cousin Marcus Essabri and campaigner David Haigh. They are all part of a campaign called ‘Free Latifa’.
Who is Princess Latifa?
Princess Latifa, or Latifa bint Mohammed al-Makhtoum, is the daughter of Dubai’s billionaire ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum who is credited for transforming Dubai into one of the foremost destinations for business and tourism. Sheikh Mohammed, also the President and Vice-President of the UAE, was partly educated in England, maintains an acquaintance with Queen Elizabeth and founded the Godolphin racing stable.
Latifa’s mother, Her Royal Highness Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, married al-Maktoum in 2004 and is his second “official wife”. The ruler reportedly has a number of unofficial wives with whom he has had at least 25 children.
Latifa was born in 1984. As per the ‘Free Latifa’ campaign, the princess tried to escape from the family residence in Dubai in 2002. She was 16 at the time. She was, however, easily tracked and brought back to the palace where she was allegedly detained by her father for over three years, the campaign says.
Latifa made a second attempt to escape in February 2018, when she met up with her friend Jauhianen at a coffee shop in Dubai. She and Jauhianen drove out of town and managed to cross the border into Oman. From there, she got on a boat and sailed into international waters. However, she was held just off the coast of Goa in India by a “significant Indian and UAE military force”, and taken back to Dubai again.
Who is Princess Shamsa and what happened to her?
The contents of the letter shared by recently with the BBC concern Princess Shamsa, who Latifa claims was captured on the orders of their father in 2000 when she was 18 years old. Shamsa who grew up partly in the UK, reports suggest, has not been seen in public since her alleged kidnapping. Shamsa was born in 1981 to one of the ruler’s “unofficial” wives, Huriah Ahmed Al M’aash. Latifa is one of Shamsa’s full sisters, the other being Sheikha Maitha. They also have a younger brother, Sheikh Majid.
In 2019, a UK court ruled that al-Maktoum, who is also the President and Vice-President of the UAE did play a role in orchestrating the unlawful abduction of his daughter Shamsa in 2000 from the UK to Dubai and that he, on two occasions in June 2002 and February 2018, ordered and orchestrated the forcible return of his daughter Latifa to the family home in Dubai.
The court documents also mention that Shamsa met an immigration solicitor in his office–probably to be able to stay in the UK–in 2000 and told him that she was a citizen of the UAE, was estranged from her father and was staying in a temporary hostel in South London. After this episode Shamsa met him two more times after which she was allegedly abducted.
On February 5, 2001, an email was sent to this solicitor from Shamsa’s sister which consisted of an account that purportedly came from Shamsa. This account said the following: “I don’t have the time to write in detail, I am being watched all the time so I’ll get straight to the point. I was caught by my father, he managed to track me down through someone I kept in touch with. I was caught on the 19th August, in Cambridge. He sent four Arab men to catch me, they were carrying guns and threatening me, they drove me to my father’s place in Newmarket, there they gave me two injections and a handful of tablets, the very next morning a helicopter came and flew me to the plane, which took me back to Dubai. I am locked up until today, ‘ ’, I haven’t seen anyone, not even the man you call my father. I told you this would happen, ‘ ’, I know these people, they have all the money, they have all the power, they think they can do anything. You said that if he kidnapped me, you would contact the Home Office and involve them. Now, I am not only asking you to report this immediately, I am asking your help and to involve the authorities (involve everyone).”
The Cambridgeshire force launched an investigation after Shamsa went missing but it soon reached a deadend, since the investigators officers were barred from going to Dubai, the BBC says in its report. Further, as per the BBC, the handwritten letter written by Latifa in 2019 was passed to the Cambridgeshire force by her friends on Wednesday.
But where did the UK High Court ruling come from?
The high court ruling came after al-Maktoum commenced proceedings in England and Wales under the jurisdiction of the London High Court seeking orders that his two children — Sheikha Al Jalila bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum who was born in 2007, and Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum who was born in 2012 — return to Dubai.
The proceedings were initiated by the ruler after his wife Princess Haya fled to the UK with the two kids.
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