Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein’s flight to Britain is threatening to provoke a diplomatic crisis as her husband, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and a key UK ally in the Gulf, faces mounting criticism over his family’s treatment of women.
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The most notorious disappearance involved the 33-year-old Princess Latifa, Sheikh Mohammed’s daughter, who allegedly escaped Dubai before being seized off the coast of India by commandos last year and forcibly returned home.
In 2000, another of the sheikh’s daughters, Princess Shamsa, fled from her father’s estate near Chobham, Surrey.
She was last seen in August that year on the streets of Cambridge from where she was reportedly abducted by the sheikh’s staff. Cambridgeshire police investigated the incident.
Princess Haya is said to have decided to flee Dubai after learning the full details of what happened to Latifa. On Thursday night, the BBC screened a repeat of a documentary, Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess, exploring Latifa’s fate.
A 69-year-old billionaire and racehorse owner, Sheikh Mohammed was last seen speaking to the Queen at Royal Ascot in June. Princess Haya, a keen equestrian, unusually did not appear at this year’s event.
In her attempt to seek asylum in the UK, Princess Haya may be able to claim diplomatic immunity as a further layer of protection.
Although she does not appear as an accredited official on the latest London diplomatic list, published early last month, she was previously registered as a Jordanian official.
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