LONDON (Reuters) – Britain called on the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday to show proof that Sheikha Latifa, one of the daughters of the ruler of Dubai, was still alive after she said in a video message from a bathroom that she was being held captive in a barricaded villa.
The fate of Latifa, 35, and her tempestuous relationship with her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, has cast a new spotlight on his family affairs and on an international campaign to free his daughter.
Dubai is now under growing international pressure to allow Latifa, who tried to flee in 2018 in a dinghy but was brought back by commando units from India, to go free.
British foreign minister Dominic Raab said the video of Latifa, in which she said she was being held hostage and was worried about her safety, was deeply troubling as it showed a woman in deep distress.
“Given what we’ve just seen, I think people would just at a human level want to see that she’s alive and well,” Raab told Sky.
In the video, shown as part of the BBC’s Panorama current affairs programme, Latifa said: “I am a hostage and this villa has been converted into a jail.”
“Every day I worry about my safety and my life,” she said in the video message from the bathroom of a villa.
She said guards had told her she would be kept in captivity for her entire life and “never see the sun again”.
Reuters could not independently verify when or where the video was recorded.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was concerned and that the United Nations was looking into the situation.
“That’s something obviously that we are concerned about but the U.N. Commission on Human Rights is looking at that,” he told reporters. “I think what we’ll do is wait and see how they get on. We’ll keep an eye on that.”
The Dubai government’s media office referred questions about the video to Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed’s law firm, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“FREE LATIFA” CAMPAIGN
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum drew international attention in 2018 when a human rights group released a video made by her in which she described an attempt to escape Dubai.
Last March, a London High Court judge said he accepted as proved a series of allegations made by Sheikh Mohammed’s former wife, Princess Haya, in a legal battle, including that the sheikh ordered the abduction of Latifa. The sheikh’s lawyers rejected the allegations.
Asked if Britain would impose sanctions on the UAE after the video, Raab said: “It’s not clear to me that there would be the evidence to support that.”
The Free Latifa campaign, which has lobbied for her release, said it had managed to smuggle a phone to Latifa, which had been used to send a series of secret video messages taken over the past two years.
Before Tuesday, the only time Latifa had been seen since she was brought back to Dubai was when her family released photos of her sitting with Mary Robinson, a former Irish president and a United Nations high commissioner for human rights, in late 2018.
But Robinson told the BBC she had been “horribly tricked” during the visit and never asked Latifa about her situation, fearing it would exacerbate a mental condition she was told the princess had.
Mohammed has a vast horse racing stable in Britain and has been pictured with Queen Elizabeth at Royal Ascot horse races.
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