The 'imprisoned' princess: Who is Dubai's missing royal Sheikha Latifa?

  • Video report from ITV News correspondent Paul Davies

In 2018, the daughter of Dubai's powerful ruler tried to flee the United Arab Emirates (UAE), claiming she was being abused and imprisoned against her will.

Sheikha Latifa bin Mohammed Al Maktoum's attempt to escape failed - commandos intercepted the boat she was on in the Arabian Sea and dragged her away, kicking and screaming.

Almost three years after the incident, the Sheika Latifa has re-emerged in new videos.

The footage, published on Tuesday, shows her in a "villa converted into a jail", saying she fears for her safety and life.

  • Sheikha Latifa makes fresh allegations in a series of new videos

From her very first allegations, the world has followed an extraordinary series of events, filled with mystery and speculation.

For those looking for the facts, here's what you need to know about the princess, her disappearance and her return.

Who is she?

Sheikha Latifa, who is in her mid 30s, is one of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's daughters. As well as being Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed is the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.Prior to 2018, Sheikha Latifa was widely known for her love of skydiving and was dubbed the "skydiving princess". According to Free Latifa, a campaign group set up by her friends, the Latifa's mother hails from Algeria and she has five siblings.

The group also describes her as a devoted vegan and committed animal rights campaigner.

What do we know about her disappearance?

Sheikha Latifa (right) with friends Credit: Free Latifa/Twitter

Sheikh Mohammed’s family life became a public matter last year, during a custody battle with his estranged second wife.

In the British High Court, a judge ruled that the sheikh had "ordered and orchestrated" the abduction of Sheikha Latifa and another of his daughters, Sheikha Shamsa.

The judge said Shamsa was abducted in August 2000 from the streets of Cambridge, while Latifa was first kidnapped in 2002 from the UAE-Oman border.

In 2018, Latifa attempted to flee Dubai. She recorded a video before she left, claiming that she was abused and had been imprisoned on and off on the orders of her father for several years. She added that when she was released, her movements were heavily restricted.

The princess said she made the video in case her escape attempt failed - and it did. She ended up being detained by commandos in the Arabian Sea.Months later, the UAE released photos of the princess “at home and living with her family in Dubai".

A photo, released by the UAE, of Latifa with Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The government said Sheikha Latifa met with Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on December 15, 2018, at the family’s request. Photos show the two women smiling in what appears to be a home.

What does the new video show?The BBC has released videos recorded by Latifa on a phone she secretly received around a year after her capture.

“I’m a hostage,” she said in one video.

“This villa has been converted into jail.

“I can’t even go outside to get any fresh air.”

The princess added that she is unsure when she will be released and what the conditions will be like should this happen.

“Every day I am worried about my safety and my life,” she said.

Marcus Essabri, a cousin who lives in England, told the BBC that the videos stopped about six months ago and there had been no word from Latifa since.

What has Dubai said?

Sheikh Mohammed Credit: AP

Sheikh Mohammed and the Dubai royal court have said that Latifa is safe in the care of her family.

What has the world said?

On Wednesday, the United Nations’ human rights body said it will seek information from the United Arab Emirates about Latifa's fresh allegations.

“Other parts of the UN human rights system with relevant mandates may also become involved once they have analysed the new material or received specific allegations,” spokesperson Rupert Colville said.

Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who appeared in those 2018 photos with Latifa after her return to Dubai, told the BBC that she had been misled by Emirati authorities. Ms Robinson said she had been told that Latifa was a troubled young woman safe in the care of her family.

“I was particularly tricked when the photographs went public,” Ms Robinson said.

“That was a total surprise.... I was absolutely stunned.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government was “concerned” by the reports, but would “wait and see” how an investigation by the United Nations into the videos unfolds.

  • Boris Johnson responds to the new videos of Sheikha Latifa

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the videos “very distressing” and said he supported a UN investigation.

Mr Raab said Britain was “concerned,” but suggested there was little the government could do because Latifa is not a UK national.