Skip to main content

Princess Latifa: Statement says captive Dubai royal can 'travel where I want'

Letter reportedly from Latifa comes day after she was pictured on social media 'having fun exploring' in Spain
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum seen wearing a facemask at Madrid airport (Campaign to Free Latifa)

A statement said to be written by Princess Latifa of Dubai, who was previously held incommunicado in the Gulf emirate, stated that she could "travel where I want" a day after she appeared in a photo at a Spanish airport.

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum has long been thought to be kept in a state of captivity by her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is prime minister and vice president of the United Arab Emirates.

On Monday, Latifa was pictured in Madrid in an Instagram photo with a British woman.

Princess Latifa: Captive Dubai royal seen on holiday in Spain
Read More »

Taylor Wessing, the princess' lawyers, released a letter on Tuesday - in response to questions about the picture - that they claimed should be read as coming straight from Latifa.

“I recently visited 3 European countries on holiday with my friend,” it reads.

“I asked her to post a few photos online to prove to campaigners that I can travel where I want. I hope now that I can live my life in peace without further media scrutiny. And I thank everyone for their kind wishes.”

'Having fun exploring!'

Last year, a British judge ruled that Sheikh Mohammed was keeping both his daughters captive and had kidnapped the two on separate occasions. In 2018, Latifa escaped Dubai with the help of her friend, a Finnish capoeira instructor, Tiina Jauhiainen.

Eight days later, when she had got as far as India's Malabar coast, Indian - then Emirati - forces violently boarded her boat and returned her to Dubai.

A picture posted to social media on Monday by Sioned Taylor, a teacher based in Dubai, appeared to show Latifa and herself in Madrid airport, standing by a red suitcase.

'I can also confirm that several of the campaign team have been contacted directly by Latifa. We cannot comment further at this stage'

- David Haigh, Detained International co-founder

“Great European holiday with Latifa. We’re having fun exploring!” read the caption under the photo.

In a statement, David Haigh - co-founder of the Free Latifa campaign and Detained International - welcomed what he called "very positive steps forward" in Latifa's case.

“We are no doubt joined by tens of thousands around the world that supported Latifa these last three years when we say we are pleased to see Latifa seemingly having a passport, travelling and enjoying an increasing degree of freedom, these are very positive steps forward," he said.

"I can also confirm that several of the campaign team have been contacted directly by Latifa. We cannot comment further at this stage, save to say that our only goal is to secure the present day and future safety and wellbeing of Latifa and that we are currently, and have been since May, seeking guarantees in that regard."

He added that his team were suspending their campaigning activities for the time being.

In May another picture posted to social media appeared to show the princess with two women in a mall in Dubai, one of whom was Taylor.

Years in captivity

In February, the BBC broadcast videos secretly recorded by Latifa and sent to friends abroad, in which she describes her capture and her imprisonment after her return to the emirate.

She said she was being held alone without access to medical or legal help in a locked villa guarded by police.

In 2000, her sister Shamsa fled from her family's Longcross estate in the UK in a Range Rover.

However, she was grabbed off the streets of Cambridge and flown back to Dubai by private jet.

In February, a letter from Latifa was handed to British police urging them to investigate Shamsa's kidnapping. In a handwritten letter given to Cambridgeshire police, Latifa said a new investigation could help free her sister.

Though it only reached British police in February, Latifa wrote the letter in 2019, according to the BBC, while she was being kept in a beachside villa guarded by roughly 30 police officers.