‘Kidnapped’ Dubai princess Latifa pictured ‘on holiday in Spain’

Instagram image appears to show Princess Latifa at Madrid–Barajas Airport

Campbell MacDiarmid, The Telegraph
June 21, 2021

Princess Latifa has appeared in a photo with a British teacher in a Spanish airport, four months after claiming she was imprisoned after being kidnapped by her billionaire father, the ruler of Dubai.

The 35-year-old princess wore a mask in the photo posted on Monday by Sioned Taylor, a Royal Navy veteran and Dubai-based teacher, captioned “Great European holiday with Latifa. We’re having fun exploring!”

Responding to a comment asking about Princess Latifa, Ms Taylor replied “She is great” with a thumbs-up emoji, confirming the pair were at Madrid-Barajas airport.

Ms Taylor, who in the past has worked for the Dubai royal family, posted photographs in May showing Princess Latifa in a Dubai shopping mall and restaurant.

Latifa (centre) in an Instagram post which appears to have been taken in the Mall of the Emirates’ VOX Cinema

They are the only public sightings of the princess since she claimed in videos released in February that she was being held hostage in a guarded Dubai villa after being forcibly returned to the United Arab Emirates following a 2018 escape attempt.

Until shortly after Princess Latifa’s escape, Ms Taylor’s LinkedIn profile described her as working “for a member of the Ruling Family as her personal assistant”, citing discretion as one of the “key skill requirements”.

The Dubai Media office and Ms Taylor did not immediately respond to requests for comment about her apparent role as Princess Latifa’s chaperone.

The latest photo of Latifa appeared “stage managed”, according to Rothna Begum, a women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“We just need to know that she is free and able to express her wishes, which is really difficult to know” from a photograph, Ms Begum said.

“The UAE has not been forthcoming [about Princess Latifa’s well-being], instead they’ve given this stage-managed show. It would be good if immigration officials were to take her aside and ask her if she wants to claim asylum or check that she wasn’t being held against her will,” she added.

Her apparent ability to travel was a positive development though, according to David Haigh, a lawyer who has campaigned for Princess Latifa’s freedom.

“We are pleased to see Latifa seemingly having a passport, travelling and enjoying an increasing degree of freedom, these are very positive steps forward,” Mr Haigh said in a statement. “I can also confirm that several of the campaign team have been contacted directly by Latifa.”

Mr Haigh declined to elaborate on communications between the princess and the Free Latifa Campaign when contacted by The Telegraph, cautioning that “this is a very, very complicated matter with a two-decade-long history of abuse, coercion, torture, [and] kidnapping.”

In March last year, a British High Court judge found that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, had ordered the kidnapping of Princess Latifa and her sister Shamsa

The findings came as part of a custody battle between the Sheikh and his former wife Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, whose allegations of intimidation and harassment by her ex-husband were accepted as proved by Judge Andrew McFarlane. 

Princess Latifa also claimed to have personally witnessed Shamsa suffer “physical abuse at the hands of family members”, in a letter to British police requesting they reopen a probe into the August 2000 kidnapping of her sister in Cambridge by Sheikh Mohammed’s enforcers, who forcibly extradited her to the UAE, where she remains. 

Princess Latifa also tried to escape her father’s control by attempting to flee the UAE aboard a yacht before Emirati and Indian commandos stormed the vessel in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Goa.

After saying she was being held against her will, the United Nations human rights body in February requested the UAE provide proof that Princess Latifa was alive.

The Dubai royal court said Princess Latifa was returned to the UAE for her own safety and has since been “cared for at home” by her family.