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A Royal Marriage Gone Wrong

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And now to the story of a royal marriage gone wrong and the geopolitical wrangling that has ensued because of it. Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein is the sixth wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. The tale that follows involves allegations of kidnapping, possible infidelity and much more. To fill us in is the BBC's Frank Gardner, who has been following the story.

Good morning.

FRANK GARDNER: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So Princess Haya is in London right now as far as we know. Why?

GARDNER: So there are different versions to this. The rumor - and we're not in the business of spreading rumors. I'm only going to tell you that this is what people are saying from the Dubai side is that she has been having some kind of an affair or got too close to one of her bodyguards - a British bodyguard. But what her friends who know her very well have told me is that she is deeply concerned and afraid for her life after discovering details of the escape last year of her stepdaughter Sheikha Latifa, who is one of the daughters of Sheikh Mohammed. She was a 33-year-old Dubai princess who put a video out online saying if you're seeing this, then I have not managed to escape. And she fled by sea. She got as far as the coast of India. And there she was, essentially, recaptured by Indian and Emirati commandos.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In fact, we have some of that video. Let's listen to a little bit of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LATIFA BINT MOHAMMED AL MAKTOUM: They put me in prison and they tortured me. Basically, one guy was holding me while the other guy was beating me. And they did that repeatedly.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, this is very dramatic testimony from her. And so how does this intersect with Princess Haya?

GARDNER: Because in December last year, Princess Haya invited Mary Robinson, who's the former Irish president and also human rights commissioner for the UN, formerly, to come and see for herself the state of Princess Latifa. And they both vouched for her, saying she's fine. She's clearly a troubled young lady. So basically, the official version was that she was mentally unstable and needed looking after. And Princess Haya, according to her friends, feels that she was, in some way, hoodwinked and given a wrong version of events. The bottom line is that Princess Haya is now in hiding in London, preparing for a legal battle, which we don't know exactly what it's going to be about - whether it's custody or money or whatever. But that is coming up at the end of July. So this is pretty embarrassing for the Dubai government. Why does it involve several countries? Princes Haya is the daughter of the former king of Jordan, King Hussein. And she is - that makes her the half-sister of the current king of Jordan. She has chosen to come to England, to Britain, where she was educated. Britain has very close ties to the UAE, so this is, potentially, a very awkward diplomatic spat between two close allies - Britain and the United Arab Emirates.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And just finally, it also brings into question the treatment of women in Dubai and particularly by Sheikh Al Maktoum.

GARDNER: Arab ruling families are particularly watchful over the female members of the family. The men have a - far more freedom, but the honor of the family rests with the women. This is why it's really kind of lifted a bit of a lid on the gilded palace life. It's very clear from the testimony in the video of Sheikha Latifa that she was in a kind of gilded cage. Now, many people would say she had every possible luxury, what - she wanted for nothing. But she, obviously, didn't want to be there. She wanted to get away and live a normal life, and that wasn't being offered to her. The same happened to Sheikha Shamsa, another sister who tried to escape in 2000 and is now in Dubai, back in the palace.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's the BBC's Frank Gardner in London.

Thank you very much.

GARDNER: Thank you, Lulu.

(SOUNDBITE OF FUTURE ISLANDS' "SEASONS (WAITING ON YOU)" Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.