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Dubai's Princess Latifa says she's being held hostage

In a series of secret video recordings, Sheikha Latifa says she is worried about her safety and is being held in a villa "converted into a jail."

The daughter of Dubai’s ruler has accused her family of holding her “hostage,” sparking fresh concern from human rights groups, the United Nations and the British government. 

In video messages obtained by BBC’s “Panorama” program, Sheikha Latifa Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum says she’s being held captive in a villa “converted into a jail,” without access to medical help or the ability to get fresh air. 

The Emirati princess, 35, says she recorded the video from a locked bathroom on a smuggled cell phone. 

“Every day, I’m worried about my safety and my life. I don’t really know if I’m going to survive this situation," she says in one of the videos. “The police threatened me that I'll be in prison my whole life and I'll never see the sun again. So I'm not safe here."

Latifa hasn't been seen publicly since her failed attempt to flee the country in 2018. The princess had hoped to seek asylum in the United States, but her US-flagged yacht was intercepted in international waters by Indian commandos and Emirati special forces, who returned her to Dubai. 

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is both the ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, has not yet commented on the new footage of his daughter.

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Wednesday his agency would “certainly raise these new developments with the UAE,” adding that other UN bodies ”may also become involved once they have analyzed the new material.”

The United Kingdom has also weighed in, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he was “concerned” by the videos. British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News he found the footage “very distressing.” 

“Given what we’ve just seen, I think people would just at a human level want to see that she’s alive and well," Raab said. 

Latifa’s alleged detention has also drawn renewed attention to the UAE’s human rights record. In a statement, Amnesty International warned that Latifa’s case is just the latest example of the wealthy Gulf country’s “alarmingly oppressive climate.” 

“Sheikha Latifa may be detained in a ‘golden cage,' but that does not change the fact that her deprivation of liberty is arbitrary and given its prolonged nature would amount to torture,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East. “Dubai and the UAE must immediately ensure she is released and respect her freedom of movement.”

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