Dubai princess Sheikha Latifa who vanished nine months ago is "safe" with her family, it has been sensationally claimed despite fears she’s dead.
In an extraordinary statement, Dubai Ruler’s Court said she celebrated her 33rd birthday with her family this week and "is deeply saddened by the continued media speculation" regarding her whereabouts.
The claim comes hours before a documentary is set to air on the BBC about her disappearance that has mystified the world.
It is the first time the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has broken its silence on the speculation surrounding Latifa.
She was last seen on March 5 being dragged into a rubber boat by Indian and Emirati forces, according to those who were with her and went against the wrath of the country by revealing these details.
It was claimed she had been attempting to flee the UAE to India with five others – including a German spy – and escape the abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her ‘egocentric’ father.
But as the yacht approached the coast of Goa, around 15 masked men in armoured black clothing stormed the vessel brandishing machine guns and laser sights before releasing smoke, according to Tiina Jauhiainen who was on board.
Ms Jauhiainen alleges she was later tortured and kidnapped and spent weeks being quizzed and in solitary confinement.
Latifa also made a frantic phone call to Detained in Dubai saying the boat was being attacked and she described there being gun fire.
She told them: "Please help. There are men outside. I hear gunshots and I am hiding with my friend."
She apparently later screamed that she was claiming political asylum and told her ‘captors’ she would rather they “kill me now; I will never go back to the UAE”.
German spy Hervé Jaubert, Ms Jauhiainen and the crew of yacht were eventually released without charge around March 29.
However it is not known what happened to Latifa and she hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
Mr Jaubert told Sky News: "Maybe Latifa did not make it. I’m not sure she is alive."
Weeks before the ill-fated escape plot, she released a chilling 40-minute video via a US law firm, vilifying her father who is ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
She described him as "one of the most evil men in the world” and spoke of a previous unsuccessful bid for freedom aged 16.
As a result, she claimed she was not allowed to drive, was monitored round the clock and was locked up – and even drugged – after a failed attempt to escape the country when she was 16.
Her older sister Shamsa had also tried to flee but was recaptured in Cambridge after absconding from the family’s former Surrey Estate in 2000.
Her apparent abduction was never fully investigated by British police.
Meanwhile, it also emerged this week how Latifa had spent seven years meticulously planning her escape from her ‘gilded prison’.
A video has circulated of her practising scuba diving in her palace.
In a statement to Sky News, the Dubai Ruler’s Court said: "We are aware and deeply saddened by the continued media speculation regarding Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al Maktoum.
"This private family matter has caused significant upset and distress for all concerned, most of all Sheikha Latifa."
They added: "Her Highness Sheikha Latifa is now safe in Dubai.
"She and her family are looking forward to celebrating her birthday today, in privacy and peace, and to building a happy and stable future for her."
However, lawyers acting on the princess’s behalf said the statement offered "no explanation" as to why Latifa released the video earlier this year begging for help.
Guernica Chambers has been instructed by Detained in Dubai to represent Ms Jauhiainen, Mr Jaubert and Latifa in legal proceedings.
In a statement it said: "If it is that Sheikha Latifa is with her family, and that this is a family matter for which she seeks no public concern, then why is she prevented from communicating this publicly, or to any individual that she considers to be a friend."
The statement added: "The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Sheikha Latifa remains detained against her will."
- Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess will broadcast on Thursday December, 6 at 9pm on BBC Two
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