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Dubai’s Latifa appears to have degree of freedom, says lawyer for campaign group

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) -Sheikha Latifa, one of the daughters of the ruler of Dubai, appears to be enjoying an increasing degree of freedom and is travelling, a lawyer for the group which campaigned for her freedom told Reuters on Monday.

An image of Latifa, a daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, was posted on Instagram appearing to show her abroad following earlier pictures of public outings in the emirate where Latifa had said she was being held captive.

“We are pleased to see Latifa seemingly having a passport, travelling and enjoying an increasing degree of freedom, these are very positive steps forward,” said David Haigh, co-founder of the Free Latifa campaign.

“I can also confirm that several of the campaign team have been contacted directly by Latifa,” he said, declining to give further details.

He said the picture, the first time she had been photographed outside the United Arab Emirates since a failed attempt in 2018 to escape her father’s control, indicated that Latifa, 35, had possession of her own passport.

Reuters could not independently verify whether Latifa has freedom of movement. The United Arab Emirates foreign ministry and the Dubai government’s media office did not respond to a request for comment.

The picture was posted on the account of Sioned Taylor, a British teacher at a state-run Dubai school, and showed the two women in face masks standing inside an airport next to a large suitcase.

“Great European holiday with Latifa. We’re having fun exploring!” read the caption. Asked if Latifa was ok, the response from Taylor was “she is great”.

Another comment confirmed the location was Spain’s Madrid–Barajas airport.

Taylor did not respond when contacted by Reuters via Instagram.

PROOF OF LIFE

A source close to Latifa’s lawyers said questions remained over Latifa’s level of freedom and whether she would be forced to return to Dubai.

In March last year, a senior judge ruled at London’s High Court that Sheikh Mohammed, vice-president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, had ordered the abduction of Latifa and her elder sister Shamsa.

Judge Andrew McFarlane said he accepted as proved that the sheikh had arranged for Latifa to be snatched from a boat in international waters off India by Indian forces in 2018 and returned to the emirate in what was her second failed escape attempt.

The findings formed part of an ongoing battle between Mohammed and his ex-wife Princess Haya over the custody of their two children.

In February, the BBC aired a video message in which Latifa said she was being held captive in a barricaded villa, prompting U.N. rights experts to demand that the Gulf state show “proof of life” and release Latifa.

Following the video, the UAE embassy in London issued a statement saying 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”.

Last month, pictures of Latifa were posted on Taylor’s Instagram account outside a movie theatre and restaurant in a Dubai mall.

(Additional reporting by Lisa Barrington in Dubai; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Alistair Smout and Janet Lawrence)

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