Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged authorities in the United Arab Emirates to reveal the whereabouts of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler.
After saying her family were imprisoning and abusing her, Sheikha Latifa attempted to flee with the help of French former spy Hervé Jaubert and long-time friend Tiina Johanna Jauhiainen, who is originally from Finland.
The two women snuck into neighbouring Oman before boarding a small boat to meet Mr Jaubert aboard his boat.
The Nostromo set sail for the Indian coast but was intercepted by three Indian and two Emirati warships on 4 March – with Mr Jaubert claiming he and his crew were beaten by commandos.
Ms Jauhiainen said she and Sheikha Latifa were below deck when they heard shouting and gunfire.
They locked themselves in a bathroom but the cabin filled with gas. When they went on deck, she says Mr Jaubert’s face was “bloody” and “unrecognisable”.
Indian officials said they had no information about the incident, although media reports suggest the raid was authorised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Dubai’s government and Emirati officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Ms Jauhiainen, speaking at a news conference in London last month, said Sheikha Latifa kept repeating during the raid: “I am seeking political asylum.”
She told reporters: “At that time I was told to keep my eyes shut, with a threat to be shot if I didn’t comply.
“Then I heard someone speaking Arabic and Latifa said: ‘Shoot me here, just don’t take me back to the UAE.’
“She was taken away kicking and screaming.”
In a statement on Saturday, HRW said Dubai authorities must reveal her whereabouts, adding: “Failure to disclose the whereabouts and status of the princess could qualify as an enforced disappearance, given the evidence suggesting that she was last seen as UAE authorities were detaining her.”
Sheikha Latifa, 32, is the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, the Emirates’ prime minister and vice president.
He is believed to have several dozen children from multiple wives, with multiple daughters named Latifa.
In recent weeks, one of those Latifas has suddenly appeared frequently in media and local media now make no mention of the Latifa who allegedly tried to leave.
Sheikha Latifa’s story takes place at a time of mass misinformation in the Gulf as part of the the clash between the UAE and its allies Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt against Qatar. Both sides have spent millions of dollars on publicity for themselves and efforts to spread critical – and sometimes fake – stories about their rival.
Mr Jaubert has provided much of the information of what happened on the boat that night.
A financial dispute forced the Frenchman to flee the UAE that he said involved disguising himself as a woman and scuba diving to escape to international waters.
The 2010 book he wrote, Escape From Dubai, prompted Sheikha Latifa to contact him, he said.
Detained in Dubai has published a video sent from the princess in the event of her capture.
In the 40-minute video, Sheikha Latifa says that her older sister, Shamsa, also fled while in the UK but that UAE authorities later kidnapped and forcibly returned her to the UAE.
Sheikha Latifa also says in the video that she had previously attempted to flee but was caught, detained and tortured.
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Mr Jaubert credited the publicity for leading the Emiratis, who fed and treated him well but refused him access to a lawyer or consular official, to release him and Ms Jauhiainen.
A post on Detained in Dubai’s website says the pair were warned not to speak of what had occurred and that Ms Jauhiainen was called after arriving back in Finland and told to stay silent with the threat that “Sheikh Mohammed can get you anywhere in the world”.