Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum (II)
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|Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum|
|Born||5 December 1985|
|Father||Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum|
|Mother||Huriah Ahmed Al M'aash|
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Arabic: شيخة لطيفة بنت محمد بن راشد آل مكتوم Laṭīfa bint Muḥammad bin Rāshid al-Maktūm) (born 5 December 1985) is an Emirati princess and a member of the Dubai royal family. Her father is the Prime Minister of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and her mother, Huriah Ahmed Al M'aash, is from Algeria.
Sheikha Latifa has two half-sisters with the same name (one older and one younger). She is the full sister of Sheikha Maitha (1980), Sheikha Shamsa (1981), and Sheikh Majid (1987).
Princess Latifa escaped from Dubai in late February 2018 and was forcibly returned from international waters near the Indian coast by a joint India-Emirates operation on 4 March 2018. In December 2018, the Dubai royal court said that she was back in Dubai.
In a video statement, Princess Latifa said that she and her brother Sheikh Majid spent their early childhood under the care of their paternal aunt. Her early education was at the Dubai English Speaking School and later at the International School of Choueifat, with one year at Latifa School for Girls. Sheikha Latifa is an experienced skydiver coached by former world champion skydiver Stefania Martinengo and held Accelerated freefall (AFF) Instructor rating.
|Nostromo Location before disappearance|
On 24 February 2018, Princess Latifa and her Finnish friend, Tiina Jauhiainen left Dubai in a car and crossed the border to Oman. They left Oman on jet skis and joined American/French citizen and former french intelligence officer Hervé Jaubert and his crew on the yacht Nostromo.
On 26 February 2018, Princess Latifa made contact with a British-based attorney Radha Stirling of Detained in Dubai, notifying them of her departure from Dubai and posted a few departing messages on her social media account, detailing the circumstances and reasons for her departure.
On 3 March 2018, before her disappearance near the coast of India, Jaubert made contact with an Indian journalist in preparation for the end of their journey.
On 4 March 2018, Princess Latifa, Jaubert and Jauhiainen, along with the crew of three Philippine nationals were intercepted by Indian authorities, while approaching Goa, on board a US-registered yacht named Nostromo with the call sign WDG9847.
She had made a 39-minute video before the escape attempt, to be released in case her life was in danger. It was made public on 11 March 2018. Recorded at Tiina's apartment, the video explains her family background and the circumstances leading to her decision to flee. In the video, she also accuses her father of maltreatment of both her and sister Shamsa along with other serious charges including murder.
The Finnish National Bureau of Investigation (KRP) confirmed the disappearance of Jauhiainen and the opening of an investigation in collaboration with the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The brother of Jauhiainen confirmed her friendship with Princess Latifa.
On 20 March 2018, the yacht Nostromo was spotted at the port of Fujairah in the UAE on MarineTraffic as its AIS tracking system was turned on. It left next day for Sri Lanka with the released crew, including Jaubert and three Filipino nationals on board. Nostromo reached Galle, Sri Lanka on 2 April 2018.
On 22 March 2018, Princess Latifa's companion Jauhiainen was found, prompting the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs to terminate its search in cooperation with the Dubai authorities. The location in which Jauhiainen was found and details of prior events were not shared officially but she returned from Dubai to Finland via London on the night of 22 March 2018 via an Emirates flight, according to her family.
According to Detained in Dubai, a number of people were detained or interrogated in connection to the event in UAE and Oman, notably Christian Elombo, a French national whose family is living in Luxembourg; Elombo spent more than a month in custody in Oman from late February to 5 April 2018. After being released without charges, he was again taken into custody in Luxembourg on 6 April 2018 under an Interpol Red Notice issued by the UAE. The notice was later retracted without notification or producing any evidence for the cited kidnapping charges on 8 May 2018, resulting in an additional 41-day detention of Christian Elombo from 6 April to 17 May 2018.
In December 2018, prior to the release of a BBC Two documentary Escape from Dubai, the Dubai royal court released a statement saying that Latifa was safe at home. On 25 December, photographs taken on 15 December were released showing Latifa alongside Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Ireland.
Interception of the yacht Nostromo
According to the testimonies of the crew, the yacht was being actively searched for by an Indian Coast Guard search and rescue aircraft with the aircraft registration SAR CG 782 on 3 March 2018. On the day of interception the yacht was again scouted by another aircraft. Before the raid on 4 March 2018, three marine vessels were spotted on radar by Nostromo's crew, tailing it at a speed of less than five knots. Two of the vessels were later identified as ICGS Shoor, and ICGS Samarth, described in media statements by Jaubert as "The two coast guards vessels had a huge marking on the side of the hull, which read 'Indian coast guards' and one had an ID number painted: 11".
After sunset two unmarked speedboats carrying six to eight armed personnel in full military gear and Tavor assault rifles were launched from these ships to intercept Nostromo. The raid began with use of stun and smoke grenades to disorient and incapacitate the crew followed by them being handcuffed, blindfolded, and severely beaten. After being taken over by Indian Coast Guard the yacht was boarded by at least ten Emirati special forces personnel who arrived by helicopter. Princess Latifa despite claiming asylum to Indian personnel and clear unwillingness to go back to the UAE from where she was fleeing, was forcefully taken away onto one of the warships. Nostromo and rest of the crew were taken to the naval base in Fujairah escorted by Indian Coast Guard ships. During the six day journey back they were transferred to a UAE warship with 'Baynunah' written on side.
According to Radha Stirling's account she received her last voice message from Latifa during the alleged raid in a panicked state telling her "Radha please help me, there are men outside" and that she had heard "gunshots". Further attempts of communication from those on-board Nostromo allegedly failed due to jamming from an Indian electronic warfare aircraft.
In total at least three Indian, two Emirati warships, two military planes and a helicopter were involved in the raid on Nostromo, a US yacht registered to an American, about 50 miles off the coast of Goa, India, having traveled all the way there from the Middle East.
Media reactions and aftermath
In the early days after news broke on disappearance of yacht Nostromo and its crew the news was primarily carried on English and Finnish tabloids backed up by awareness campaigns in social media which was boosted by support from internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom.
Jauhiainen and Jaubert made their first public appearance after the incident in a press conference arranged by Detained in Dubai in London despite facing alleged threats from the UAE government to stay silent.
Following a couple of months without mention in Gulf media, the Western media stepped in and started asking for clarity on the status of Sheikha Latifa. Human Rights Watch questioned Dubai's story, and asked Dubai's authorities to reveal her location, adding: "Failure to disclose the whereabouts and status of the princess could qualify as an Enforced disappearance, given the evidence suggesting that she was last seen as UAE authorities were detaining her." UN OHCHR Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (WGEID) sought responses on allegations from Governments of India and UAE.
Ad-Diyaar, a mainstream Arab newspaper, also published the calls by Human Rights Watch raising the issue that Sheikha Latifa has been forcibly hidden.
Support groups also stepped in raising awareness of the campaign at Kentucky Derby 2018 by flying a banner saying "DUBAI, WHERE IS PRINCESS LATIFA?".
First reaction from the UAE on the matter was unofficial and claimed the incident to be a foreign conspiracy and attempted to discredit those helping princess Latifa using an anonymous Dubai source. Notably following the Enforced Disappearance of princess Latifa, UAE controlled media began reporting extensively about social activities of her half-sister with same name who serves as Vice Chairman of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture). Many news outlets ended up reporting Show jumper Sheikha Latifah bint Ahmed bin Juma Al Maktoum as missing, due to similarity in names.
The Indian government has been widely criticised for its extrajudicial outreach, citing national interests  and disregard of formal legal process. Indian media reported that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his advisers were directly involved in giving the orders of interception at request of Prime Minister of UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and didn't seek any formal request from UAE. Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson claimed "No such incident has been brought to our notice." While Deputy Commandant Avinandan Mitra of the Indian Coast Guard in response to media queries about this incident near Indian coastline said that, "we have no such information or operation." Indian Intelligence agencies said they were trying to verify the claims but had no further comment.
Similarly, the Finnish government was criticised for not raising concerns about a human rights violation of one of their citizens to Indian authorities. A day later Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Timo Soini responded, saying Finland had been in correspondence with UAE and Indian officials about the issue outside of media.
Amnesty International on 4 September 2018 released a public statement appealing to the government of UAE to disclose whereabouts of Sheikha Latifa and uphold its international legal obligations, while also calling upon Indian government to investigate role of its security forces and officials involved in raid of Nostromo and unlawful excesses committed.
On 6 December 2018, release of BBC Two documentary Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess evoked first official response on the matter from Dubai royal court in the form of a brief statement saying that Latifa was safe at home. The documentary covered escape attempt that Sheikha Latifa had spent seven years planning and also looking into a similar attempt by her sister Shamsa in 2000.
The matter was referred to United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions by Guernica 37, a London-based law firm representing the princess and her two friends. Following this, on 25 December 2018, three low-resolution photographs taken on 15 December showing Princess Latifa alongside Mary Robinson were released by UAE authorities. According to Mary Robinson the meeting was arranged by one of the wives of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Princess Haya and described Latifa in a BBC Radio 4 interview as a "troubled young woman" and claiming that she regretted making the earlier video in which she alleged abuse. The comments were criticised by various rights groups and Detained in Dubai head Radha Stirling for reciting Dubai's official version of the events "almost verbatim". Human rights groups and associates of Princess Latifa questioned the nature of brief visit, calling for independent investigation and assessment of her situation disputing suggestion of any psychiatric problems and possibility of her being held under captivity.
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In the video, Sheikha Latifa talks of her skydiving hobby. Kristen Cotten, a 33-year-old skydive instructor and friend of Sheikha Latifa, told the AP the woman in the video and the identification documents is indeed her friend. "I think a lot of people think it's fake just because it sounds so crazy," said Cotten, who was an instructor in Dubai between 2012 and 2016 and now lives in Minnesota. "If I hadn't worked with her and known her and seen her every day I'd probably feel the same way. But that's the same girl I saw every day at the drop zone." Sheikha Latifa also was shown and identified in pictures from 2016 and 2017 on an Instagram account connected to her skydiving club. Past articles in state-linked media also confirm she is a daughter of the ruler.
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...It was the Indian who attacked us, who brutalized us it was the Indians. Once the Indians took over the boat, the Emirati came on-board, they came from a Helicopter. Special forces Emirati, they came on-board they took over and Indians left. But they did not leave completely, they were escorting us. I saw their warships on both side of the boat, they were escorting us. I know they were Indian Coast Guard because there was painted on the side of the hull, the marking 'Indian Coast Guard' and one of the ship had number '11'...
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– Och de berättar samma historia: den indiska kustbevakningen kom tungt beväpnad med fem militärfartyg och två flygplan, av vilka ett var utrustat för elektronisk krigföring, det vill säga för att kapa Nostromos kommunikationsmöjligheter. Personerna ombord greps under våldsamma omständigheter. Prinsessan Latifa flögs från Indien till Dubai, medan de andra fördes till fartyg tillhörande Förenade Arabemiraten (UAE) och transporterades sjövägen till Dubai, fortsätter hon.
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Friends of Latifa al-Maktoum flew a banner at this weekend's Kentucky Derby
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