Someplace amid the shiny glass towers of Dubai the place Instagram influencers flaunt their our bodies and their riches, stands a villa on the seashore.
However that is no odd residence and its occupant shouldn’t be one of many pleasure seekers who flock to the Arabian emirate for its luxurious buying, nightlife and sandy seashores.
For this can be a jail and behind the locked doorways and barred home windows is Princess Latifa al-Maktoum, whose spectacular try and flee the nation of her start led to her being drugged, kidnapped and incarcerated beneath armed guard in her ‘villa-jail’.
In a exceptional sequence of haunting movies smuggled from her captivity, the 35-year-old daughter of Sheikh Mohammed-al-Maktoum, Dubai’s autocratic ruler — and horse-race loving good friend of the Royal Family — has described how she is being held hostage by her father and in concern for her life.
The exceptional footage, obtained by the BBC’s Panorama additionally reveals particulars of how her dramatic 2018 escape, involving jet skis and a yacht, led to her brutal recapture and compelled repatriation.
She says she was seized by gun-toting commandos who stormed her boat with smoke bombs and stun grenades, drugged her and returned her to Dubai the place her captors instructed her she would ‘by no means see the solar once more’.
Her determined bid to interrupt away from her suffocating life within the United Arab Emirates revealed the darkish underbelly of life beneath absolutely the rule of Sheikh Mohammed.
Final 12 months the Excessive Court docket in London dominated that he had not simply ‘ordered and orchestrated’ the kidnapping of Latifa but additionally of a second daughter, Princess Shamsa, who was snatched outdoors a pub in Cambridgeshire.
On the identical time the courtroom discovered he waged a marketing campaign of concern in opposition to his sixth spouse, Princess Haya, 45, who fled to Britain final 12 months with their youngsters, Jalila and Zayed, terrified for her security.
Princess Latifa has not been seen in public since December 2018, when she appeared in a stage-managed picture name with former Irish president Mary Robinson — labelled a PR stunt by some.
After that look by which Mrs Robinson declared the princess was ‘within the loving care of her household’ — remarks that triggered a storm — Latifa, who appeared to be beneath remedy, vanished.
Till now. Buddies managed to smuggle a telephone to her and she or he started to secretly file movies about her seize. She filmed them in a toilet because it had the one door she might lock.
Trying pale and frightened, she describe the dramatic second when the yacht on which she made her failed escape try, skippered by a employed French adventurer, was boarded by Indian troops after eight days at sea.
Princess Latifa al Maktoum, the kidnapped daughter of Dubai’s ruler, has smuggled a sequence of haunting movies out of captivity describing herself as being held ‘hostage’ by her father
‘I saved saying you possibly can’t take me again,’ she recalled. ‘I would like asylum and we’re in worldwide waters. You may’t kidnap me.
They have been simply on a mission they usually got orders.’ Latifa describes how she fought with two Emirati officers and bit considered one of them on the arm earlier than her arms have been zip tied and she or he was later tranquilised to maintain her quiet.
Determined to start out a brand new life within the West away from the stifling conventions of Dubai, the place all girls should obey a person, she launched into an escape that had all of the substances of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Smuggled from considered one of her father’s palaces, she was pushed throughout the border into Oman from the place she took a dinghy off the coast of the capital Muscat into the Arabian Sea.
There adopted a rendezvous with Frenchman Herve Jaubert, a spy who had as soon as escaped the UAE disguised in a burqa, and who was ready for her with jet skis. They then sped throughout the waves 15 miles to his yacht Nostromo.
However the 100ft-long vessel was being tracked and was ambushed as she neared the Indian coast.
Photographs taken in 2018 and launched by the UAE ministry of international affairs confirmed Latifa posing with the previous Irish president and UN excessive commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson
In her video messages, Latifa describes clinging on to the facet of the vessel, earlier than being dragged off on to the Indian army boat.
‘I used to be combating as exhausting as I might. My flip flops got here off so I used to be barefoot. I did not have any weapons. I used to be tied. I used to be up in opposition to lots of people with weapons. It wasn’t straightforward,’ she says.
As soon as on the commandos’ boat she describes how she was restrained and drugged: ‘The one who was sitting on my abdomen, he grabs my chest and he says to me: ‘Shut up, shut up’, so I bought actually, actually indignant and I used to be hitting him with my arms and screaming at him to get off me and I used to be so, so indignant and I simply saved combating with him actually exhausting.
‘No one cared, however ultimately as a result of I used to be actually, actually, actually struggling loads, the opposite Emirati man instructed him: ‘Get off her’ and he sat on me and he helped the opposite man tie up my legs however I used to be combating.
‘This man got here with a small pouch, like a camouflage pouch and he took out a needle and he injected me in my arm.’
She handed out and when she got here to she was already again in Dubai. ‘I observed that my arms have been like actually bruised and swollen, particularly my left hand, as a result of the zip ties have been nonetheless on me and I used to be nonetheless on the stretcher, nonetheless tied to the stretcher,’ she claims.
Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on Derby day at Epsom in 2017 together with his estranged spouse Princess Haya of Jordan who later fled the nation in concern for her life
For 3 months the princess says she was held within the Al Alwir jail earlier than being transferred to the villa on the seashore.
Within the movies she describes her solitary imprisonment. ‘I’m in a villa, I am a hostage,’ she says.
‘This villa has been transformed in to a jail. All of the home windows are barred shut. There are 5 policemen outdoors and two policewomen inside the home. ‘I can not even go outdoors to get any contemporary air.’
The recordings have been made at appreciable danger to her private security and smuggled out of Dubai to her supporters in Britain who’re campaigning for her launch.
The Princess — one of many Sheikh’s 30 youngsters by six completely different wives — tells how she has been imprisoned and threatened with being shot except she co-operates with the official statements issued by her father.
‘I do not know after I might be launched .. . Day-after-day I’m fearful about my security and my life, I do not know if I’m going to outlive.’
Princess Latifa’s ID Card which states her full identify as Sheikha Latifa Mohd Rashed Almaktoum
She provides: ‘The police threatened me that I will be in jail my complete life and I will by no means see the solar once more.
‘I do not wish to be a hostage on this jail-villa, I simply wish to be free. I do not know what they’re planning on doing with me, I actually do not know.’
The movies might be a supply of embarrassment to Mrs Robinson who visited Latifa and following her assembly declared her a ‘troubled younger lady’ with out asking if she was being held in opposition to her will.
Mrs Robinson, a former UN commissioner for human rights, now says she was ‘horribly tricked’ into attending the stage-managed assembly and had been shocked to see images of her ‘non-public’ assembly with Latifa launched to the media.
She mentioned she had been instructed the princess suffered from bipolar dysfunction and that she shouldn’t talk about the situation along with her.
‘I used to be deeply tricked when the pictures went public, horribly tricked,’ she instructed the BBC.
Pictured: Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum together with his sixth spouse, Princess Haya, 45, who fled to Britain final 12 months with their youngsters, Jalila and Zayed, terrified for her security
‘I imply that was a complete shock. I used to be completely shocked.’ The assembly had been organized by the Sheikh’s now ex-wife Princess Haya, who was later to flee from Dubai in concern of her personal life after her affair with considered one of her bodyguards was uncovered.
In a single video message Latifa says of Mrs Robinson: ‘She mentioned I used to be mentally troubled. She mentioned that I used to be a troubled younger lady, and I had a critical medical situation and I used to be getting assist for it.
‘That is implying that I’ve psychiatric issues. She knew that I used to be OK . . . it was all a set-up.’
The key messages emerged a couple of 12 months after the princess’s recapture and are thought to have been filmed over a number of months.
Campaigners hope the movies will encourage the United Nations to press for the princess’s launch.
They emerged after she made contact with a good friend, Finnish health teacher Tiina Jauhiainen, who took half within the failed escape bid, and a lawyer, David Haigh, who collectively arrange the Free Latifa marketing campaign.
Tiina first met Latifa in late 2010 when she began giving her martial artwork classes. Through the years, Latifa confided in her and in 2017 requested for assist in attempting to flee.
Talking of the movies, Tiina mentioned: ‘She is so pale, she hasn’t seen daylight for months. She will be able to principally transfer simply from her room to the kitchen and again.’
Mr Haigh mentioned: ‘These movies go proper to coronary heart of the lie that Princess Latifa is comfortable being held in Dubai. She was kidnapped and is a held hostage. She has made these movies within the hope that the surface world will realise that she is being held in opposition to her will.’