A photograph has emerged which appears to show Princess Latifa, the daughter of the ruler of Dubai, who has rarely been seen or heard from in months.
The Instagram post seems to show Princess Latifa with a friend at Madrid airport.
In February, the BBC broadcast footage shot by Princess Latifa in which she said she was being held captive in a villa and feared for her life.
The footage prompted the UN to demand “concrete” proof she was still alive.
Human rights experts from the UN also said she should be released “urgently”.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) later said she was “being cared for at home”.
“She continues to improve and we are hopeful she will return to public life at the appropriate time,” the statement said.
What does the photo show?
This latest image appeared on the public Instagram account of Sioned Taylor. It is the third photo that Ms Taylor, who lives in Dubai and is a long time friend, has posted of Princess Latifa since mid-May.
“Great European holiday with Latifa,” the caption reads. “We’re having fun exploring!” Both women are wearing face masks and appear to be in Madrid-Barajas airport in Spain’s capital.
David Haigh, co-founder of the Free Latifa campaign, said in a statement he was “pleased to see Latifa seemingly having a passport, travelling and enjoying an increasing degree of freedom”.
He also said the princess had directly contacted members of the Free Latifa team, but added he could not comment further at this stage.
In May, Ms Taylor posted two other photos on Instagram which appeared to show Princess Latifa at a mall in Dubai and later at a restaurant in the city.
On the face of it, this does appear to be a marked improvement in Princess Latifa’s situation.
Only four months ago, her video showed a captive woman clearly in some distress, and following its broadcast, her friends and supporters worried whether she was still alive.
Today they are cautiously optimistic, but they remain wary, with several questions unanswered.
What were the conditions under which she was allowed to travel? Is there a chaperone from her father’s family lurking discreetly in the background and reporting back on her every movement? Does she have any say in whether she can travel again or return to what amounts to house arrest in Dubai?
As ever, there has been little or no comment from the authorities in Dubai. Commenting on her situation, one of her supporters said today: “We will only know the answers when and if she is allowed to come to London as a free woman”.
What happened to Latifa?
Latifa, one of the 25 children of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, attempted to escape from Dubai in February 2018.
In a video recorded shortly before she left, she said that her life was heavily constricted. “I haven’t left the country since 2000. I’ve been asking a lot to just go travelling, to study, to do anything normal. They don’t let me,” she said.
But the escape went wrong: eight days into a sea journey across the Indian Ocean, they were caught by commandoes who forcibly removed Latifa and returned her to Dubai.
Her father later said that he considered this a “rescue mission”.
In February 2021, BBC Panorama broadcast videos secretly recorded by Princess Latifa and communicated to friends abroad, in which she describes her capture and her imprisonment after her return to Dubai.
She said she was being held alone without access to medical or legal help in a villa with windows and doors barred shut, and guarded by police.