Three months after the BBC aired a video message in which she said she was being held hostage in a barricaded villa, two pictures of Sheikha Latifa, the ruler of Dubai’s daughter, have emerged on Instagram.
If verified, the photos will be the first time Latifa has been photographed in public since a failed attempt three years ago to flee her father’s influence by boarding a yacht and sailing across the Indian Ocean.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and a vice-president of the United Arab Emirates, has been keeping Latifa against her will, according to her supporters.
The sheikh and the UAE categorically deny the accusations.
In April, U.N. rights experts demanded that the United Arab Emirates show “proof of life” for and release Latifa bint 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 that the two pictures, posted on the Instagram account of Sioned Taylor, were genuine and had been taken recently. Reuters could not independently verify whether 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, Taylor, whose profile identifies her as a teacher at a state-run Dubai school, did not respond.
The first image, posted on Taylor’s account on Thursday, shows Latifa outside a movie theatre inside 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 Taylor’s account on Saturday, shows Latifa sitting outside a restaurant with the Dubai Mall in the backdrop.
The UAE embassy in London released a statement after the BBC aired the video in February, saying Latifa was being cared for at home by her family and medical professionals and that she would return to “public life at the right time.”
Latifa gained international recognition in 2018 after a human rights organization released a video of her describing an attempt to flee Dubai. Special forces seized her off the coast of India and returned her to Dubai.
In March 2020, a London High Court judge said in a legal dispute that he acknowledged as proven a number of allegations made by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-former Maktoum’s wife, Princess Haya, including that the sheikh ordered Latifa’s kidnapping. The claims were denied by the sheikh’s lawyers.
Latifah’s family released pictures of her with Mary Robinson, a former Irish president and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in late 2018. Robinson later told the BBC that she was “tricked” during the visit and that she never inquired about Latifa’s condition.