Mary Robinson has denied that she was friends with the rulers of the United Arab Emirates.
Ms Robinson, the former Irish president, said at a climate change conference yesterday: “I have never been friends, except with Princess Haya. One friend. Who is still my friend.”
Princess Haya bint Hussein, 45, one of the wives of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, 69, the ruler of Dubai, is in hiding in London after fleeing the Middle East. She is the second member of the family to try to flee over the past 18 months.
In March last year Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, 33, tried to flee Dubai after claiming that she had suffered years of abuse at the hands of her father, Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the prime minister of the UAE.The UAE denied these allegations.
Sheikha Latifa, a step-daughter of Princess Haya, had attempted to reach India but the yacht she was travelling in was stopped off the coast of Goa by a small armada of armed ships and a helicopter, and boarded by the Indian coastguard. Emirati authorities claimed she was “vulnerable to exploitation” and had been kidnapped.
Human rights groups had raised concerns about her safety because she had not been seen in public or heard from since she was returned to Dubai that month. In a video, which she said she had recorded before the escape in case it failed, the princess said her father had been holding her against her will.
In December photographs of Ms Robinson, a former UN human rights chief, with Sheikha Latifa were released by her family to rebut what they described as “false allegations” that she was taken home against her will.
Ms Robinson was widely critised at the time for describing Sheikha Latifa as a “troubled” young woman. She said she had made the trip at the request of Princess Haya and had agreed to the release of the pictures to “allow it to be understood” that it was a “family matter now and that [she] is in the loving care of her family”.
The Times revealed this week that Princess Haya, the British-educated half sister of the former king of Jordan, had fled to Britain in fear of her life. She is understood to be in hiding at her £85 million mansion close to Kensington Palace in London.
Ms Robinson said that it was a private matter and that she respected Princess Haya’s privacy. She declined to comment further when contacted by The Times yesterday.
Princess Haya is believed to have left Dubai with her children, Jalila, 11, and Zayed, 7. They travelled to Germany before moving to London, where she bought a home in 2017. She is said to have fled after discovering “disturbing facts” about the Sheikha Latifa incident.
The princess, 45, and Sheikh Mohammed are now embroiled in High Court action in London over the future of their family.
Sheikh Mohammed, a billionaire, posted a poem on Instagram accusing an unidentified woman of “treachery and betrayal”. A spokesman for the UAE said it would not comment on “allegations about individuals’ private lives”.