Princess Latifa al Maktoum, the daughter of Dubai's billionaire ruler, who tried to flee in 2018, has appeared in a set of secret video recordings, claiming to have been held "hostage" by her father in a "villa converted into a jail." In the video footage shared with BBC Panorama, Latifa shared how her dramatic attempt to escape in her brutal capture by her father United Arab Emirates' Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
This is the first time in three years that Latifa has spoken publicly. She also accused Sheikh Mohammed of jailing her for three years in 2002 when she tried to escape his "repressive control" and flee the country.
Breaking Her Silence
The 35-year-old royal prisoner in the video footages can be heard giving extensive details about her dramatic 2018 escape attempt involving jet skis and a yacht ended in her brutal recapture and forcible repatriation. Since then she has been in captivity. "I'm a hostage and this villa has been converted into a jail," she said.
The princess also said that there are five policemen outside and two policewomen inside to keep a watch on her movements and can't even go out to get fresh air. Latifa filmed the videos in a bathroom "because this is the only room with a door I can lock," she said.
Latifa's friend, Tiina Jauhiainen, told the BBC that she helped sneak Latifa the phone that the videos were recorded on but the messages have recently stopped and she is deeply concerned for her friend.
The princess also claims to have been drugged and tortured on the orders of her father. In another video clip, Latifa said that he is worried about her future. "The police threatened me that I'll be in prison my whole life and I'll never see the sun again," she said.
Latifa said that she is one of around 30 children of Sheikh Mohammed, 71, who also serves as the prime minister and vice president of the UAE. She was made captive after being captured in a boat off India in 2018. After being in the sea for eight days, the yacht she was travelling on was surrounded by Indian commandos off the coast of Goa and she was returned to the custody of her father in Dubai.
Latifa also claimed her older sister Shamsa is also being kept hostage in Dubai after she tried to escape the kingdom and was abducted from the UK in 2000. However, Sheikh Mohammed has always claimed that Latifa was tricked into escaping by criminals, who wanted money and getting her back to Dubai was a rescue mission.
Latifa describes in the video how she fought with two UAE officers and bit one of them on the arm before her hands were zip tied and she was later tranquilized to keep her quiet. Many of the sheikh's family members too have alleged that Latifa is being held captive against her will.
Although the videos came to light only yesterday, the secret recording were made sometime in 2019 and now the communications with her are broken. "Now the communication with Latifa has been broken, we are gravely worried for her safety and believe this was the right time to release to the media some of the videos Latifa sent us," said her cousin Marcus Essabri.
This although was her second failed attempt to flee abroad after she had previously tried to leave the UAE in 2002 as a teenager. At the same time, Sheikh Mohammed and the Dubai Royal Court continue to claim she is safe in the loving care of her family.
The recently released videos come as an embarrassment to former Irish president Mary Robinson who visited Latifa in a stage-managed meeting and declared her a 'troubled young woman' without asking if she was being held against her will. However, she later conceded that she had been "tricked" into helping present that image when she was photographed with the princess after her return to Dubai in 2018.