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Missing Princess Latifa ‘being cared for at home,’ Dubai royal family says

Dubai’s royal family says Princess Latifa is “being cared for at home,” dismissing videos in which she accused them of holding her hostage since she attempted to flee abroad in 2018.

“In response to media reports regarding Sheikha Latifa, we want to thank those who have expressed concern for her wellbeing, despite the coverage which certainly is not reflective of the actual position,” the statement by her family said, according to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embassy in London.

In secret recordings obtained by the BBC and shared with CNN, the daughter of Dubai’s billionaire ruler claimed she was being held hostage in a “villa converted into a jail” with no access to medical help.

CNN has not independently verified the videos, released as part of BBC Panorama’s ‘The Missing Princess’ documentary earlier this week, or Latifa’s current whereabouts.

The royal family’s statement falls short of demands from the United Nations and the United Kingdom that the UAE provide proof of life for the sheikha.

In the statement, her family said that, “Her Highness is being cared for at home, supported by her family and medical professionals.”

“She continues to improve and we are hopeful she will return to public life at the appropriate time,” it added.

Latifa’s family and close friends have set up a campaign with supporters and advisers named Free Latifa. Some human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, support the campaign.

“Any truthful confirmation that Princess Latifa is safe and well is of course welcome. However, the statement today is reminiscent of those in 2018, 2019 and 2020,” the leaders of the campaign said in a statement on Friday.

“Statements that proved one thing, that the United Arab Emirates, its embassy in London and more specifically Latifa’s father the Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum simply cannot be trusted.”

The statement called on the UN and world leaders such as US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to step in and urge the UAE to release Latifa.

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum — the daughter of UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum — was last seen publicly in March 2018 aboard a yacht off the coast of India, before a raid by Indian and Emirati forces took her back to Dubai, according to two people who had helped plan her escape.

It was her second failed attempt to flee abroad after she previously tried to leave the UAE in 2002 as a teenager.

In one of the video clips, Latifa says: “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.”

Latifa secretly recorded the videos herself on a mobile phone whilst hiding in a locked bathroom, according to the BBC. The documentary says that around a year after Latifa was taken back to Dubai, her friend Tiina Jauhiainen was contacted by someone who helped the pair secretly reconnect.

Jauhiainen managed to get a phone to Latifa and since then the princess has recorded many video messages “describing her captivity in a villa converted into a jail with its windows barred shut,” according to a BBC press release.

“BBC Panorama has independently verified the details of where Latifa was being held hostage. She was guarded by around 30 police, working on rotation, both inside and outside the villa. The location is just metres from the beach. It is not known if she is still there,” the press release says.

In another video shown in the documentary, Latifa says: “I have been here ever since, for more than a year in solitary confinement. No access to medical help, no trial, no charge, nothing … Every day I am worried about my safety and the police threaten me that I will never see the sun again. I am not safe here.”

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