Dubai is at the cusp of an international espionage thriller of epic proportions – just what is the mystery behind a Frenchman in Luxembourg, Indian soldiers seizing a yacht, and the supposed escape of a detained Emirate princess?
The espionage thriller starts when human rights activists have become increasingly worried about the safety of Shiekha Latifa bint Mohammend bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (Shiekha Latifa), the 32-year-old princess of Dubai, after being supposedly captured at sea last March while in the process of fleeing her home in the United Arab Emirates. It came to the point that the Human Rights Watch had to consistently urge authorities in Dubai to reveal just where the princess is, lest the case be considered as an “enforced disappearance.”
The only answer the groups retrieved was one from a source that is apparently close to Dubai’s higher powers, though the only comment was that Latifa is “doing excellent” “with her family” back in Dubai. However, other accounts of people apparently involved in the entire ordeal appear to recount quite the aggressive – dare we say, thrilling – journey to retrieve the princess by the time she slipped into Oman territory back in February. There were even rumors of punishment for the people who helped her with her escape.
Back in February, advocacy group Detained in Dubai had taken up her case, and then alerted members of the human rights commission of the United Nations.
Perhaps adding to the mystery was what apparently is a self-made video that was uploaded to YouTube by none other than the Princess herself, which had brought her in the limelight in the first place. In the video, Latifa is shown saying she’s currently experiencing restrictions and maltreatment at the hands of her father, Mohammed bin Rashed Al-Maktoum, and his family.
The Daring Escape
During the video, Latifa said this might be the last video she will while in captivity, as she was “sure” she’ll be able to escape. Should she fail, she said the video will still be of use as her father cares about his reputation. When the video was published, it was pretty clear she was attempting an escape prior to her disappearance in February. It was here that some people who helped her were revealed.
First was Finish Tiina Jauhiainen, Latifa’s capoeira teacher; second was French national Christian Elombo who teaches sports in Oman; and third was Franco-American Herve Juabert, a businessman claiming to be a former secret service agent under the French.
Latifa had made contact with Jaubert because of his book “Escape from Dubai,” released last 2009. In the book, Jaubert recounts fleeing the country via a dinghy amid a business deal gone sour.
When Jauhiainen and Latifa made it to Oman, she said the plan was to board a yacht owned by Jaubert and travel to India. By the time they get there, Latifa had planned to fly to the United States. Unfortunately, by the first few nights of March, the Indian navy had surrounded their vessel and the two were detained by Indian soldiers. The yacht was then towed back to the UAE.
Jauhiainn and Jaubert were said to be detained by the Indian navy until the end of March, but Latifa hasn’t made any form of contact since.
Behind The Scenes
In Jaubert’s version of the events, the 62-year-old said they were surrounded by a helicopter, two planes, and five warships. The soldiers that came in the yacht also ended up beating and robbing them, even when the princess was screaming that she herself was seeking asylum.
Jaubert said he was blindfolded and was kept in solitary confinement. He was questioned before being forced to sign a confession, and only then was he released. Jaubert said the confession was to admit they had kidnapped the princess, as based on Islamic definition, a “woman” cannot give consent for as long as she remained under the care of her father.
Elombo also got arrested on the charges of illegally facilitating the exit and entry of Latifa in Oman. Authorities first gave him a suspended jail sentence, and was actually expelled last April. However, his arrival in Luxembourg became a reunion as the police arrested him, courtesy of an “Interpol red notice” that sought his extradition. The charges on Elombo included “kidnapping,” which can mean being in prison for life.
Meanwhile, the Indian government has yet to give a comment on the issue. However, according to the Straits Times, an article in the Business Standard states that the Prime Minister, Narenda Modi, himself has actually allowed the operation to proceed. This is partly motivated by the desire to consolidate India’s interests with the Gulf states.
The only comment from the Dubai government at the time was made last April, when it said a supposedly-”private matter” had become a “soap opera,” and even accused Qatar that it was involved in the matter.
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