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UAE: Princess Latifa asks UK police to reopen case into sister Shamsa’s kidnapping

In a handwritten letter given to British authorities on Wednesday, Latifa says a new investigation could help her secure her sister's release
Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum attends the Global Women's Forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 16 February 2020. (REUTERS/Christopher Pike/File Photo)
Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum attends the Global Women's Forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 16 February 2020. (REUTERS/Christopher Pike/File Photo)

Dubai's Princess Latifa has urged British police to reopen its case into the kidnapping of her sister Shamsa by her father, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, according to a letter shared with the BBC.

In a handwritten letter given to Cambridgeshire police on Wednesday, Latifa, who last week appeared in footage describing herself as a “hostage” of her father, said a new investigation could help free her sister.

Princess Shamsa, now 39, has not been seen in public for two decades since allegedly being abducted in the UK as a teenager by men working for Sheikh Mohammed.

Last year, a British judge ruled that the sheikh, who is prime minister and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates, was keeping both his daughters captive and had kidnapped the two on separate occasions.

Shamsa, it was claimed and believed by the judge, fled her family in the UK in 2000, only to be recaptured by Emirati agents in Cambridge, sedated and then rendered by helicopter from the family's Newmarket home.

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Shamsa is believed held captive in Dubai. Attempts by Cambridgeshire police to travel to the UAE and follow up investigations into her disappearance were blocked by prosecutors.

The court heard that the UK Foreign Office received freedom of information requests about this matter, which were refused on the grounds that such information could harm relations with friendly foreign countries.

‘Tranquilised all the time’

Though it only reached British police this week, Latifa wrote her letter in 2019, according to the BBC, while she was being kept in a beachside villa guarded by roughly 30 police officers.

"All I ask of you is to please give attention on her case because it could get her her freedom,” it reads. “Your help and attention on her case could free her.

“She really loves England,” Latifa wrote, “all of her fondest memories are of her time there."

Latifa dated her letter February 2018 - before her most recent attempt to escape - so her captors could not find out she had a means of communicating with the outside world, according to the BBC. 

In it, she describes what happened to her sister Shamsa when she was brought back to Dubai.

"She was kept incommunicado with no release date, trial or charge. She was tortured by getting her feet caned..."

Someone in Dubai in regular contact with Shamsa told the BBC, "you didn't need to be a doctor to know that [she] was tranquilised all the time."

Queen Noor of Jordan, who serves on the board of commissioners for the International Commission on Missing Persons, asked "Where is her sister Shamsa??" on Twitter on Sunday, in a tweet accompanying a BBC article which claimed her sister Latifa was being held captive.

Cambridgeshire Police reviewed its original 2001 investigation into Shamsa’s kidnapping in 2018, according to the BBC, then opened another review in 2020.

Latifa's letter "will be looked at as part of the ongoing review", it told the BBC

“This is a very complex and serious matter,” the police statement continued, “and as such there are details of the case that it would be inappropriate to discuss publicly".

The government of Dubai did not respond to BBC requests for comment.

‘No dispute to the evidence’

The UK judge in the 2020 court case also ruled that Dubai's emir waged a harassment campaign against his former wife, Princess Haya bint Hussein, the step-daughter of Queen Noor and half-sister of King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Haya claimed her relationship with Sheikh Mohammed broke down completely in 2019, soon after she started visiting her step-daughter Latifa and began asking questions about Shamsa.

Last Friday, Latifa's family said she was being "cared for at home" and said the footage broadcast by the BBC and media reporting on the princess' plight was "not reflective of the actual position".

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Since the release of the footage, rights groups have been calling on the international community to pressure the UAE into releasing both royals. 

"Human rights organisations and UN bodies have repeatedly called on the UAE to provide proof of life of these two adult women and evidence that they are free to travel and leave their confinement," Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn), told Middle East Eye.

"There is no dispute to the evidence that Emir Mohammed bin Rashid kidnapped his adult daughters and is holding them in forced captivity. If the UAE was a country where the 'rule of law' meant anything at all, the police would move immediately to arrest the emir and free his daughters from their cruel imprisonment.

"The UAE spends millions on PR spewing nonsensical claims of 'women's empowerment' while it allows one of its most prominent leaders to get away with the most retrograde domestic violence, kidnapping, and cruelty against women in his own family."

Sheikh Mohammed is known to be friendly with Queen Elizabeth II.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week that he was “concerned” about the plight of Latifa after the new videos of her emerged, though Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK had no plans to raise Latifa's case directly with the Emiratis.

The Sunday Express reported on Sunday that Latifa's lawyers will formally request that Raab seize her father's assets under powers granted to the government by new UK human rights legislation.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also said that the Biden administration is closely monitoring developments.