LONDON (REUTERS) – Two images of Sheikha Latifa, a daughter of the ruler of Dubai, have appeared on Instagram in recent days, three months after the BBC aired a video message in which she said she was being held captive in a barricaded villa.
The images, if verified, would mark one of the few times she has been photographed in public since shortly before she mounted a failed attempt three years ago to escape her father’s control by boarding a yacht to sail across the Indian Ocean.
Since then, she and her supporters claim she has been held against her will on the orders of Sheikh Mohammed Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and a vice-president of the United Arab Emirates.
The sheikh and the UAE categorically deny the accusations.
Last month, United Nations rights experts demanded that the United Arab Emirates show “proof of life” for and release Sheikha Latifa Mohammed al-Maktoum, 35, after the video aired in February by the BBC’s investigative news programme Panorama.
A source close to campaigners who have lobbied for her release said the two pictures, posted on the Instagram account of Ms Sioned Taylor, were genuine and had been taken recently. Reuters could not independently verify whether Sheikha Latifa has freedom of movement.
The UAE Foreign Ministry referred requests for comment on the Instagram images to the Dubai government’s media office, which did not respond when contacted by Reuters. When contacted by Reuters via Instagram, Ms Taylor, whose profile identifies her as a teacher at a state-run Dubai school, did not respond.
The first image, posted on Ms Taylor’s account last Thursday (May 20), shows Sheikha Latifa outside a movie theatre in a Dubai mall. An advertisement for a film released in Dubai on May 13 can be seen in the background.
The second image, posted on Ms Taylor’s account last Saturday, shows Sheikha Latifa sitting outside a restaurant with the Dubai Mall in the background.
After the video aired by the BBC in February, the UAE embassy in London issued a statement saying Sheikha Latifa was being cared for at home by her family and medical professionals and that she would return to “public life at the appropriate time”.
Sheikha Latifa drew international attention in 2018 when a human rights group released a video made by her in which she described an attempt to escape Dubai. She was captured off the coast of India by special forces and taken back to Dubai.
In March last year, a London High Court judge said he accepted as proved a series of allegations made by Sheikh Mohammed Rashid al-Maktoum’s former wife, Princess Haya, in a legal battle, including that the sheikh ordered the abduction of Sheikha Latifa. The sheikh’s lawyers rejected the allegations.
In late 2018, Sheikha Latifa’s family released photos of her sitting with Mrs Mary Robinson, a former Irish president and a UN high commissioner for human rights. Mrs Robinson subsequently told the BBC that she was “tricked” during the visit and never asked Sheikha Latifa about her situation.