Kidnapped daughter of Dubai ruler is seen in public for first time in nearly three years

The kidnapped daughter of the ruler of Dubai has been seen in public for the first time in almost three years.

Three months after shocking videos recorded by Princess Latifa al Maktoum were released she was photographed at a shopping mall with her friends.

Dubai authorities sanctioned the release of the photo after campaigners backed by the UN demanded ‘proof of life’ following the release of videos and fears for her life.

Campaigners described the latest move as ‘highly significant’ and are hoping it could lead to her being allowed to leave the United Arab Emirates.

Latifa, 34 has now been photographed with two friends at the Emirates Mall in Dubai (pictured)

Latifa, 34 has now been photographed with two friends at the Emirates Mall in Dubai (pictured)

Latifa, 34 has now been photographed with two friends at the Emirates Mall in Dubai (pictured)

Three months after shocking videos recorded by Princess Latifa al Maktoum were released she was photographed at a shopping mall with her friends

Three months after shocking videos recorded by Princess Latifa al Maktoum were released she was photographed at a shopping mall with her friends

Three months after shocking videos recorded by Princess Latifa al Maktoum were released she was photographed at a shopping mall with her friends

Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on Derby day in 2017 with his estranged wife Princess Haya

Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on Derby day in 2017 with his estranged wife Princess Haya

Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on Derby day in 2017 with his estranged wife Princess Haya

Timeline: Princess Latifa’s escape and capture  

December 1985: Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is born. 

August 2000: Her father, the ruler of Dubai, orders Latifa’s sister Shamsa abducted from the UK. 

Latifa says she has not been allowed to leave Dubai since this date. 

June 2002: The teenage Latifa makes her first escape attempt, but is captured on the UAE’s border with Oman and returned to Dubai on her father’s orders. She says she was subsequently held in prison until 2005. 

2010: Latifa meets Tiina Jauhiainen, a Finnish martial arts instructor. They become close friends, and the princess later confides in her about her earlier escape attempt and what had happened to Shamsa. 

2017: The pair begin plotting their escape with clandestine discussions at the glitzy Dubai Mall. Tiina travels to the Philippines to meet a French former spy and naval officer, Herve Jaubert, who had written a book called Escape from Dubai. 

February 24, 2018: Latifa and Tiina drive for six hours to reach Oman, where they boarded a dinghy to reach international waters before using jet skis to board the US-flagged boat Nostromo, captained by Jaubert. 

March 4, 2018: The Nostromo is intercepted by commando units, allegedly including Indian special forces, who kidnap Latifa and take her back to the UAE. 

December 2019: A UK judge finds that the allegations of abduction are proved to be true. He also rules that the sheikh subjected his estranged wife Princess Haya to a campaign of fear and intimidation.  

March 2020: The judge’s rulings are made public after the Supreme Court denies the sheikh’s final appeal. 

February 2021: New videos come to light in which Latifa, speaking from a ‘villa jail’, describes how her father’s henchmen foiled her escape attempt and says she is being held ‘hostage’. 

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Latifa, 34, was photographed with two friends at the Emirates Mall in Dubai some time in the last week.

The picture was posted on an Instagram account of one of her companions, known to a friend for a number of years.

Supporters of the Free Latifa campaign said the two women with the Princess were friends of hers for many years.

In the background a cinema can be see advertising the film Demon Slayer: Mugen Train. The film was released in the UAE on May 13.

Friends of Latifa are convinced the photograph is genuine and was not taken under any duress.

One of the women with her was identified as Lynda Bouchikhi and was uploaded to her instagram account this week.

She posted the message ‘Lovely evening at MoE with friends.’

The photo would only have been released with the permission of the ruler of Dubai.

Campaigners hope it is the first step into allowing her to leave the UAE to start a new life.

It is the first time she has been seen in public since a staged ‘photo’ with former Irish President Mary Robinson in December 2018.

Earlier this year Latifa smuggled a series of haunting videos out of captivity, describing herself as being held ‘hostage’ by her father Shekh Mohammed al Maktoum.

Speaking publicly for the first time in three years, the 34-year-old royal prisoner described in vivid detail how her dramatic 2018 escape attempt involving jet skis and a yacht ended in her brutal recapture and forcible repatriation.

In the most damming video filmed after her failed escape, the Princess says: ‘I’m a hostage.’

She continues: ‘And this villa has been converted into a jail. All the windows are barred shut.

‘There’s five policemen outside and two policewomen inside. I can’t even go out to get fresh air. So basically, I’m a hostage.’

Latifa escaped Dubai in February 2018 after recording a disturbing video in which she revealed her troubled relationship with her father.

She was captured on a yacht off the coast of India and forcibly returned to Dubai where she was ‘imprisoned’ in a villa and guarded round the clock

After the release of the February 2021 videos the United Nations demanded to see proof of life and called for Latifa to be freed.

The Free Latifa campaign have recently demanded sanctions be placed on the Dubai ruler over his failure to release his daughter and comply with the UN demands.

David Haigh from the campaign said: ‘We confirm that there have been several potentially significant and positive developments in the campaign.

‘We do not intend to comment further at this stage, a further statement will be issued at the appropriate time.’

Last month UN experts demanded the UAE provide information about his daughter and release her.

The UAE said on February 19 Latifa was being cared for at home, after the UN human rights office headed by Michelle Bachelet asked it for proof she was alive.

Princess Latifa

Princess Latifa

Speaking publicly for the first time in three years, the royal prisoner describes in vivid detail how her dramatic 2018 escape attempt involving jet skis and a yacht ended in her brutal recapture and forcible repatriation

Speaking publicly for the first time in three years, the royal prisoner describes in vivid detail how her dramatic 2018 escape attempt involving jet skis and a yacht ended in her brutal recapture and forcible repatriation

The complaint was filed in April after UN experts demanded the UAE provide information about his daughter and release her, two months after the BBC aired a video it said was of Princess Latifa (pictured) describing herself as a hostage in a villa

The Queen with Sheikh Mohammed on Derby day in 2011

The Queen with Sheikh Mohammed on Derby day in 2011

The Queen with Sheikh Mohammed on Derby day in 2011 

A diagram showing Latifa's daring escape plan from the seas around the United Arab Emirates

A diagram showing Latifa's daring escape plan from the seas around the United Arab Emirates

A diagram showing Latifa’s daring escape plan from the seas around the United Arab Emirates 

‘We are alarmed that, following the public release in February of footage in which Sheikha Latifa reported being deprived of her liberty against her will, and the subsequent official request for further information on her situation, no concrete information has been provided by the authorities,’ the independent UN human rights experts said in joint statement.

‘The statement issued by the Emirates authorities merely indicating that she was being ‘cared for at home’ is not sufficient at this stage,’ added the experts, who include the UN investigators on torture and on violence against women.

The joint statement said the experts called ‘for independent verification of the conditions under which she is being held, and for her immediate release’.

A spokesman for Bachelet’s office said earlier last month it had not received a requested ‘proof of life’ for Sheikha Latifa from the United Arab Emirates.

Senior UN officials sought a meeting with the UAE ambassador in Geneva about Latifa, which in principle has been agreed, the spokeswoman said at the time.

The fate of Latifa and her tempestuous relationship with her father, who is also a vice-president of the UAE, has cast a new spotlight on his family affairs.

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.

Princess Latifa and her best friend Tiina Jauhiainen in a selfie on the road to Oman on the first leg of their journey in 2018

Princess Latifa and her best friend Tiina Jauhiainen in a selfie on the road to Oman on the first leg of their journey in 2018

Princess Latifa and her best friend Tiina Jauhiainen in a selfie on the road to Oman on the first leg of their journey in 2018

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (pictured), who only visits the Inverinate retreat in Wester Ross a few weeks of the year, is extending the plot to around a quarter of a mile

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (pictured), who only visits the Inverinate retreat in Wester Ross a few weeks of the year, is extending the plot to around a quarter of a mile

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (pictured), who only visits the Inverinate retreat in Wester Ross a few weeks of the year, is extending the plot to around a quarter of a mile

Stage-managed photos taken in 2018 showed Latifa posing with the former Irish president and UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson

Stage-managed photos taken in 2018 showed Latifa posing with the former Irish president and UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson

Stage-managed photos taken in 2018 showed Latifa posing with the former Irish president and UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson

In the most damming video filmed after her failed escape, the Princess says: ‘I’m a hostage. And this villa has been converted into a jail. All the windows are barred shut.

‘There’s five policemen outside and two policewomen inside. I can’t even go out to get fresh air. So basically, I’m a hostage.’

In the video, Latifa accused him of jailing her for three years in 2002 when she tried to escape what she called his ‘repressive control’.

The princess said she was drugged and tortured on the orders of her father. She said was not allowed to drive, had no passport and was followed by a team of guards. 

Latifa also claimed her older sister Shamsa is being kept against her will in Dubai after she tried to escape the kingdom and was abducted from the UK in 2000.

Latifa, who is one of the Sheikh’s 30 children by his six wives, fled Dubai by jet ski to rendezvous with a yacht waiting to sail to India. 

After eight days at sea, the yacht she was travelling on was boarded by Indian commandos off the coast of Goa and she was returned to the custody of her father in Dubai.

Latifa hoped to travel to India and then the United States to seek asylum.

The sheikh says Latifa was tricked into escaping by criminals who wanted money and that returning her to Dubai was a rescue mission.  

He has been the subject of allegations that have come from a number of members of his family.

As well as Latifa and one of her sisters, two former wives claim he abused them. The sheikh denies the claims. 

Since then UN experts have raised concerns with the Emirati government about her ‘alleged enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention’, they said in Tuesday’s statement.

‘Her continued incommunicado detention can have harmful physical and psychological consequences and may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,’ they said.

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