Saudi princess facing jail in US for treating servant like a slave
Published 12/07/2013 | 05:00
A Saudi princess has been charged with human trafficking in California after prosecutors accused her of holding a woman against her will as a domestic servant.
Meshael Alayban (42) who could face up to 12 years in prison if convicted, is alleged to have forced the 30-year-old Kenyan woman to cook, clean and do chores 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for payment of $220 (€168) a month.
She was arrested after the alleged victim left a luxury home in Orange County carrying a suitcase and a US State Department pamphlet on trafficking, and then flagged down a bus.
The woman told police that she had been hired in Kenya last year. She went to work for Alayban in Saudi Arabia after signing a two-year contract with an employment agency under which she should have been paid $1,600 (€1,226) a month to work eight-hour days, according to prosecutors.
Ms Alayban's family then travelled to the US in May bringing the victim and four other women from the Philippines.
Prosecutors said the alleged victim had her passport taken away and was only given it briefly to get through US Customs.
When police went to the house where the family was staying in Orange County the other four women left voluntarily.
Ms Alayban was identified as one of the wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud.
Human rights groups have raised increasing concerns about the phenomenon of modern-day slavery in Gulf states, where migrant workers can find themselves trapped in low-paid servitude with their travel documents removed by employers.
Orange County district attorney Tony Rackauckas said: "This is not a contract dispute. This is holding someone captive against their will. The law of our nation and California does not tolerate people who deprive or violate the liberty of another and obtain forced labour or services. If any person is being enslaved, he or she should contact law enforcement."
Ms Alayban did not attend a court hearing in Santa Ana, California, where a judge set bail at $5m (€3.8m), required that she wear a tracking device, and banned her from leaving the county without authorisation.
Paul Meyer, her lawyer, said the case was a contractual dispute and she had given her word she would address the allegations. He added: "This is a domestic work hours dispute."
He said Ms Alayban had been travelling to the US since she was a child and bail should not be so high simply because she was rich. (© Daily Telegraph, London)