The daughter of Dubai’s billionaire ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has appeared in secret recordings claiming she is being held hostage by her father.
Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum II, 35, is one of the daughters of the most powerful man in Dubai – and she has not been seen in years.
It was widely thought that she was in the care of her family following two thwarted attempts to escape the United Arab Emirates.
Until Tuesday, when BBC program Panorama aired secret videos recorded by the missing princess from inside what she claimed has been her prison.
“The police threatened me that I’ll be in prison my whole life and that I’ll never see the sun again,” Sheikha Latifa said.
The princess attempted to flee the United Arab Emirates in 2018.
Her father is believed to have orchestrated her abduction and return. She is thought to have been held captive in a villa “converted into jail” since.
In one of the videos, Sheikha Latifa described the conditions under which she was being held.
“I’m a hostage. This villa has been converted into jail. All the windows are barred shut, I can’t open any window … I’ve been by myself, solitary confinement. No access to medical help, no trial, no charge, nothing,” she said.
Also appearing on the BBC program was Tiina Jauhiainen, who says she is a long-term friend of the princess.
Ms Jauhiainen claims she helped smuggle her friend a mobile phone, which Sheikha Latifa used to record the covert video footage while hiding in a locked bathroom.
Ms Jauhiainen said her friend had asked her in 2017 if she would help her to escape from Dubai.
In 2018, Sheikha Latifa released a different video, explaining why she wanted to escape from the UAE, in which she said “this could be the last video I make”.
The princess also said all her father cared about was his reputation, and that the video could save her life.
In 2018, Sheikha Latifa left the UAE on board the Nostromo, a private vessel belonging to dual French and American citizen Herve Jaubert – aided Ms Jauhiainen.
They planned to sail to India, then fly to the US, where Sheikha Latifa would seek asylum.
It was the second time the princess had attempted to escape the UAE, having also tried to run away as a teenager in 2002.
Ms Jauhiainen said the ship was intercepted off the coast of India by men with guns. They boarded the vessel and removed Sheikha Latifa.
“Last time I saw her she was kicking and screaming, and she was dragged off the boat,” she said.
A photo of the princess with former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Ireland Mary Robinson was released in 2018 as proof of her safety.
Ms Robinson said she was unaware when meeting Sheikha Latifa that she was being “tricked”, and still harbours concern for the young woman’s wellbeing.
The Free Latifa campaign, of which Ms Jauhiainen is a member, decided to release the footage after they had stopped receiving new video messages from Sheikha Latifa.
They have also urged the UN to investigate the matter.
In 2019, Sheikha Latifa’s stepmother – her father’s sixth wife – Jordanian Princess Haya Bint Al Hussain fled Dubai with her two children.
Princess Haya escaped to London, fearing her children would also be abducted by their father.
The Princess applied to London’s High Court seeking to be granted custody of her children as well as a forced marriage protection order and a non-molestation order.
In 2020, as part of his findings, London High Court Judge Andrew McFarlane established some “findings of fact” about the case.
He found that the Sheikh had conducted a “campaign of fear and intimidation” against Princess Haya.
He also accepted allegations that Sheikha Latifa’s father had ordered her abduction, and also the abduction of her older sister, who had escaped to Britain.
The court found the UAE Prime Minister “continues to maintain a regime whereby both these two young women are deprived of their liberty”.
His lawyers rejected the allegations.
The Sheikh’s lawyers have not responded to questions about the secret videos aired on Tuesday.