Flee­ing princess taken back to Dubai

The Press - - World -

MID­DLE EAST: A French for­mer spy who was help­ing a Dubai princess to es­cape from her fa­ther has de­scribed how the yacht they were on was stormed by the In­dian coast­guard, act­ing for the Emi­rati au­thor­i­ties.

Herve Jaubert was tak­ing a woman iden­ti­fied as Sheikha Lat­ifa bint Mo­hammed al­Mak­toum to In­dia in an at­tempt to win her asy­lum in the United States. She said she had been held as a vir­tual pris­oner for years by her fa­ther, Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid al-Mak­toum, the ruler of Dubai.

Jaubert, 62, is a for­mer se­cret ser­vice agent turned busi­ness­man who him­self es­caped from Dubai 10 years ago while await­ing trial on fraud charges. He said he had re­sponded to a re­quest for help, but sub­se­quently went miss­ing at sea along with Sheikha Lat­ifa, 32, and her best friend, Ti­ina Jo­hanna Jauhi­ainen, 41, who is from Fin­land.

The three were taken to the United Arab Emi­rates af­ter the yacht, the US-reg­is­tered Nostromo, was stormed off the In­dian coast by a small ar­mada of mil­i­tary ves­sels, Jaubert said in his first ac­count of the es­cape.

The ‘‘mys­tery of the miss­ing sheikha’’ was first re­vealed by the group De­tained In Dubai, which cam­paigns on be­half of peo­ple who have fallen foul of the le­gal sys­tem in the UAE.

Be­fore she fled, Sheikha Lat­ifa sent a lawyer a 40-minute video giv­ing her life story and say­ing she had once been jailed for three years for try­ing to help her older sis­ter, Sheikha Shamsa, who had also tried to es­cape her up­bring­ing.

She said the video was sup­posed to have been re­leased only if her es­cape at­tempt failed.

On March 4, she sent a mes­sage from her mo­bile phone to Radha Stir­ling, di­rec­tor of De­tained In Dubai, say­ing she was on a yacht with Jaubert and that it was be­ing boarded by armed men.

Noth­ing more was heard from the group un­til 10 days ago, when Jauhi­ainen was put on a plane from Dubai to Lon­don and Jaubert was al­lowed to sail his yacht away from a UAE mil­i­tary base.

‘‘We were taken to the UAE, kid­napped and sent to jail in the UAE,’’ Jaubert said in a state­ment is­sued through the cam­paign group. ‘‘We were blind­folded and hand­cuffed . . . Al­to­gether there were like five war­ships, two planes and a he­li­copter.’’

He said he was told that he had not bro­ken any na­tional law but that the Emi­rati au­thor­i­ties were act­ing on the ba­sis of Is­lamic law, ‘‘be­cause un­der Is­lamic law, women are in the cus­tody of a fa­ther, hus­band or brother. So when I helped Lat­ifa to es­cape, they viewed that as kid­nap­ping her from her fa­ther’’.

Jauhi­ainen said the raid on the yacht was con­ducted by the In­dian mil­i­tary and was the most ter­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of her life.

‘‘Lat­ifa was scream­ing at the In­dian men that she was claim­ing po­lit­i­cal asy­lum. They dragged her away as I heard her say, ‘I won’t go back to the UAE, just kill me now’. I haven’t seen my friend Lat­ifa since.’’

Jauhi­ainen said that back in Dubai, she was threat­ened, forced to sign a state­ment in Ara­bic – which she did not un­der­stand – and warned that Sheikh Mo­hammed was one of the most pow­er­ful men in the world. ‘‘I was reg­u­larly told that I was fac­ing the death penalty,’’ she said.

Dubai and the Emi­rati au­thor­i­ties have not made any com­ment on Sheikha Lat­ifa’s al­le­ga­tions or ex­plained what has hap­pened to her.

Stir­ling said the In­dian au­thor­i­ties had car­ried out a ‘‘bel­liger­ent and hos­tile act’’ be­yond in­ter­na­tional law.

She said the UAE had ‘‘acted as if their own cul­tural norms and re­li­gious be­liefs su­per­seded their in­ter­na­tional le­gal obli­ga­tions and the rule of law’’.

French for­mer spy Herve Jaubert, left, has spo­ken about his at­tempt to help Dubai princess Sheikha Lat­ifa bint Mo­hammed al-Mak­toum, cen­tre, es­cape her home­land and her fa­ther, Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid al-Mak­toum, the ruler of Dubai, right.

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