Saudi princess tried in absentia for alleged Paris beating

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Emmanuel Moyne the Lawyer of Saudi Princess Hassa bint Salman (Michel Euler/AP)

The only daughter of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman was put on trial in absentia in Paris for allegedly ordering her bodyguard to strike a plumber she suspected of taking photos and video at the Saudi royal family’s apartment in the French capital.

Prosecutors allege Princess Hessa bint Salman became enraged when she saw the plumber allegedly capturing her image, fearing the pictures could be used to harm her as the Saudi monarch’s daughter due to her country’s conservative traditions.

The presiding judge, quoting from prosecution evidence, said on the trial’s opening day that the princess allegedly told her bodyguard to disparage the workman, calling him a “dog who doesn’t deserve to live”.

Ms bint Salman, who is the older half-sister of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has denied the allegations through her lawyer.

The French-Egyptian plumber, Ashraf Eid, told Paris police after the September 2016 incident that the bodyguard tied him up at the princess’ bidding after he photographed a room to help in returning furniture to its original layout once he finished his work.

“The princess noticed that her face was reflected in the bathroom and that she had been filmed. She called me a dog and called her bodyguard saying in Arabic, ‘This one, take his phone. He filmed me’,” Mr Eid reported to police investigators.

Mr Eid said bodyguard Rani Saida broke his phone and also made him kiss the Saudi princess’ feet while his hands were bound behind his back. The plumber did not attend court on Tuesday.

Mr Saida is being tried together with the princess. He denies being physically aggressive, but said it is widely known no one is supposed to photograph the princess and alleged Mr Eid “knew very well what he had done”.

“There are 20 or 30 witnesses inside the apartment who can testify that at no time was (the workman) touched,” he said, adding that breaking Mr Eid’s phone was “the biggest mistake”.

“It deprives us showing that this gentleman took videos intentionally,” Mr Saidi said.

Bint Salman left France days after the Sept. 26, 2016 incident and a warrant for her arrest was issued in December 2017. She was not present in court Tuesday.

The princess is being tried for alleged theft of a telephone, complicity in voluntary violence and complicity in sequestration, according to a French judicial official.

French daily newspaper Le Parisien quoted Ms bint Salman’s lawyer, Emmanuel Moyne, as saying the princess could not appear in court for her safety and because Saudi law prohibits the taking of her photograph.

He also said French authorities sent a court summons to the wrong place — the Paris residence instead of a royal palace in Saudi Arabia.

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