Instagram photo appears to show Princess Latifa in Dubai shopping centre

Princess believed to have been held against her will since 2018 on the orders of her father

Unverified image is believed to show Princess Latifa at a Dubai mall cafe with Sioned Taylor, formerly of the Royal Navy. Photograph: @shinnybryn/instagram

Unverified image is believed to show Princess Latifa at a Dubai mall cafe with Sioned Taylor, formerly of the Royal Navy. Photograph: @shinnybryn/instagram

 

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, whose plight has captivated the world since a daring attempt at escaping her father across the Indian Ocean, appears to have been photographed in public for the first time in years.

In a picture posted to Instagram two days ago by both former Royal Navy member Sioned Taylor and another user, Princess Latifa is seated with two women at a cafe table in what Taylor identified as Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates.

While Instagram posts do not include metadata, which would show the date and time the photograph was taken, a cinema in the background carries adverts for the film Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, which was released in the UAE on May 13th.

Friends of the princess told the BBC that the photograph was legitimate.

The now 35-year-old Latifa fled Dubai in early 2018, accusing her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, of years of abuse. She and a friend left for Oman by car, then used jet-skis to join the yacht Nostromo and sailed across the Indian Ocean to Goa.

She was forcibly returned to the United Arab Emirates eight days after her escape when at least eight Indian and 10 UAE special forces members intercepted the Nostromo vessel off the coast of India using unmarked speedboats and a helicopter.

The princess is believed to have been held against her will since then on the orders of the sheikh, who is the powerful ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the UAE.

Sheikh Mohammed has said that the raid on the Nostromo was a rescue mission, and has consistently rejected allegations of abuse against at least two of his 25 children.

Speculation

The picture’s publication immediately led to speculation over how, why and when it was released. Last month, the UN said the UAE had failed to provide compelling proof that Latifa is still alive.

The princess has not been heard from since mid-February, when she recorded videos shared with media in which she said she was being held as a hostage and feared for her life. She has not been seen in public since late 2018.

“This indicates that the UAE intends to perhaps allow Latifa to return to public life as mentioned in their last statement,” said Radha Stirling, the founder of rights group Detained in Dubai.

“The UAE has declined direct media requests and largely ignored United Nations’ pleadings. The Maktoums see many of the people calling for Latifa’s release as self-interested and in some cases, actual convicted criminals. They’re not going to send Latifa into the hands of those who may use and manipulate her, and they don’t want to see her as an adverse witness in the British courtroom drama surrounding Princess Haya.”

Princess Haya, Sheikh Mohammed’s second wife, left Dubai for London with their two young children in 2019, seeking a divorce. The UK high court ruled in 2020 that the sheikh had tried to abduct the children.

In its ruling on Princess Haya’s case the court also found that another of the sheikh’s daughters, Princess Shamsa, was kidnapped by his staff from the streets of Cambridge in 2000. Shamsa, who would now be 39, has not been heard from since. – Guardian