Dubai's Latifa is free to travel, statement issued through lawyers says

FILE PHOTO: Sheikha Latifa, daughter of the ruler of Dubai, is seen at the Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport terminal in Madrid, Spain, in this undated picture obtained from social media by Reuters on June 21, 2021. Instagram @shinnybryn/via REUTERS

DUBAI (Reuters) - Sheikha Latifa, one of the daughters of the ruler of Dubai, has issued a statement by email to Reuters saying she is free to travel, according to lawyers who said they were acting on her behalf.

The announcement comes two days after a photo appearing to show her abroad surfaced on social media and four months after the BBC aired a video message in which Latifa said she was being held captive.

"I recently visited 3 European countries on holiday with my friend. I asked her to post a few photos online to prove to campaigners that I can travel where I want," said the statement. Law firm Taylor Wessing said the statement was issued under Latifa's instructions in response to queries from Reuters.

"I hope now that I can live my life in peace without further media scrutiny. And I thank everyone for their kind wishes."

Reuters could not independently verify whether Latifa has freedom of movement or the circumstances under which the Taylor Wessing statement was issued. Taylor Wessing is a global law firm with 28 offices worldwide, including one in Dubai, its website says.

The UAE foreign ministry and the Dubai government's media office did not immediately respond on Wednesday to requests for comment.

United Nations rights experts had demanded that the Gulf Arab state show "proof of life" and release Latifa following the video broadcast by the BBC in February.

Latifa, 35, has previously publicly communicated through the Free Latifa group and other campaigners which have posted videos on her behalf.

The photo, purporting to show her at an airport in Spain, was the first time she had been photographed outside the United Arab Emirates since a failed attempt in 2018 to escape her father's control.

Speaking after the Spain photo was posted to an Instagram account on Monday, Free Latifa co-founder David Haigh told Reuters Latifa appears to be enjoying an increasing degree of freedom and is travelling.

Haigh declined to respond on Wednesday when asked by Reuters to comment on the latest statement attributed to Latifa.

Latifa's close friend Tiina Jauhiainen posted a message on Twitter on Monday saying she was pleased to see that Latifa appeared to be free to fulfil her dreams of freedom to travel.

"I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of a new chapter in her life," Jauhiainen added.

Last year a senior judge ruled at London's High Court that Latifa's father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE, had ordered her abduction in waters off India in 2018 and had her returned to Dubai following what was her second failed escape attempt.

The UAE embassy in London said in February 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".

(Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Michael Holden, Editing by William Maclean)

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