Dubai's Princess Latifa Says in Secret Video She's Being Held Hostage in a "Jail Villa"

Corinne Heller
·3 min read

The allegedly missing daughter of Dubai's billionaire ruler appears in a secret video aired by the BBC, claiming she is being held hostage with no access to medical help.

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, whose father is UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, was last seen publicly in 2018 before she attempted to flee her native country on a yacht. Emirati forces raided the boat as it approached the coast of India and forcibly returned her to Dubai, she said in the BBC Panorama episode The Missing Princess: What Happened to Princess Latifa? that was broadcast on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

"I've been here ever since," the 35-year-old princess said. "I've been by myself, solitary confinement. No access to medical help. No trial, no charge. Nothing."

It is unclear when she recorded the videos, which she secretly sent to friends until she stopped replying to them. People lobbying for her release sent the footage to the press. Her father and the Dubai government have not responded to the videos or the program. The BBC reported that Dubai and the UAE have previously said Latifa is safe in the care of family.

"I'm a hostage and this villa has been converted into a jail. All the windows are barred shut," Latifa said in a video aired by the BBC. "I don't know when I'll be released and what the conditions will be like when I'm released. Every day, I'm worried about my safety and my life. I don't really know I'm going to survive the situation. The police threatened me that I'll be in prison my whole and I'll never see the sun again."

Unsolved Mysteries Burning Questions Answered

In 2019, the Sheikh's former wife and Latifa's stepmother, Princess Haya, fled herself to London with her two children to seek a protection order. A legal battle ensued and last year, a London High Court judge accepted several allegations she made, including a claim that her husband had ordered Latifa to be abducted. His lawyers rejected the allegations.

The BBC program also showed a video Latifa allegedly recorded and released to the press in 2018, just before she tried to leave Dubai on the yacht. In the clip, she said she had not left the country since 2000 and was banned from driving anywhere or traveling outside the country. She said her life in general was "very restricted."

"I don't want to be a hostage in this jail villa," she said in a newer video. "I just want to be free."

In 2018, her family released photos of her having lunch with former Irish President and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson. Robinson told the BBC that she was "horribly tricked," saying she was told that the princess "had a quite a serious bipolar problem" and she therefore did not ask her about her situation, as she was did not want to "increase the trauma."

On Wednesday, Feb. 17, Britain's Foreign Minister Dominic Raab called for proof that Latifa is still alive. "We are concerned by this," he told Sky News. "The [current] United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights will be following up on what we've seen and we'll be watching and monitoring that very closely indeed...Given what we've just seen, I think people would just, at a human level, want to see that she's alive and well."

Reuters quoted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as telling reporters, "That's something obviously that we are concerned about but the U.N. Commission on Human Rights is looking at that. I think what we'll do is wait and see how they get on. We'll keep an eye on that."