Princess Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum – whose father is the ruler of Dubai and vice president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – was attempting to flee Dubai in a yacht in February 2018, when UAE authorities intercepted the boat in the Indian Ocean.
Almost a year later, a statement was released via state news agency Wam, saying Latifa “was at home and living with her family in Dubai”, alongside pictures of her with the former UN high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson.
However, BBC Panorama has obtained video clips that claim to be from Latifa, taken from a phone smuggled into the villa she is being held in Dubai, where she says she is imprisoned.
“I’m a hostage, I’m not free. I am prisoned in this jail. My life is not in my hands,” she says.
It comes as Robinson says she was “misled” by the Dubai royals.
BBC Panorama say they have now “independently verified” the details of where Latifa was being held when she sent the videos. They say she was being guarded by around 30 police, working on rotation, inside and outside the villa, which has its “windows barred shut”. It is not known if she is still there.
In the footage – which will screen tonight at 8.30pm as a half-hour BBC special The Missing Princess – Latifa says that she has been held in “solitary confinement” since her attempted escape from Dubai three years ago. At the time, her friend Tiina Jauhiainen had helped her board a boat to try to leave the UAE to start a new life abroad.
A year later, Jauhiainen says she was contacted by an unnamed person who helped her smuggle a phone to the princess.
Jauhiainen says she is concerned for Latifa.
“She is so pale, she hasn’t seen sunlight for months. She can basically move just from her room to the kitchen and back.”
Robinson was also interviewed for the programme, in which she states that she was tricked into meeting with Latifa in 2018.
Robinson was criticised for the photographs when she appeared on BBC Radio 4 two weeks later and described Latifa as a “troubled young woman” who was now being taken care of by her family.
“I was misled, initially by my good friend Princess Haya, because she was misled. Haya began to explain that Latifa had quite a serious bipolar problem,” Robinson says.
“And they were saying to me, in a way that was very convincing: ‘we don’t want Latifa to go through any further trauma’[…] I didn’t know how to address somebody who was bipolar about their trauma. And I didn’t really actually want to talk to her and increase the trauma over a nice lunch.”
The Dubai Media Office has been contacted for comment.
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