India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly gave the green light for a clandestine operation to intercept a yacht carrying a runaway Dubai royal.
Princess Latifa Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum was detained by naval commandos and handed over to United Arab Emirates officials after her boat was stopped in Indian waters, according to the Business Standard newspaper this week.
Despite no official request to intervene, national security officials advised Mr Modi the action was beneficial to India’s security interests in the Middle East, the Indian paper said.
The New Delhi government made no official comment on the matter but India’s reported actions, earlier this month, have come under scrutiny as Princess Latifa claimed she had been mistreated in the UAE and was seeking asylum. Her current whereabouts are unknown.
In a pre-recorded video released online after her arrest, Latifa said she and her elder sister, Shamsa, had been tortured and harassed for years because of their efforts to live a more independent lifestyle.
International laws regarding asylum can be murky if, as Indian officials told the Standard, the people at sea are accused of a crime. But critics say if Latifa faces torture back home, India could be violating international law.
Reports said witnesses aboard the yacht claimed Latifa was handed over to UAE military personnel by the Indian Coast Guard despite her demanding asylum — sparking an international row over India’s action.
India located the United States-flagged yacht, The Nostromo, around 50 km off the coast of Goa, in the Arabian Sea.
A former French intelligence officer, Hervé Jaubert, and Latifa’s friend Tiina Jauhiaien were also handed over to the UAE by the Indian Coast Guard, the Business Standard said, but released after pressure from diplomatic missions.
Jauhiaien told The Helsinki Times: "Fifteen men came onboard fully masked, in black clothing, with machine guns and laser sights. It was the most terrifying experience of my life.”
Jauhiaien added that Latifa, whose passport was held by her family, planned to land in Goa and then fly to the United States to seek asylum.
How the princess intended to travel on to the USA without a passport, and after claiming asylum in India, is unclear.
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