Eight Princesses from the United Arab Emirates have been found guilty of human trafficking and degrading treatment of their “servants” by a Brussels court.
The case against Princess Sheikha al-Nahyan and her seven daughters was first brought forward in 2008 after the police raided a five-star hotel where the now 64-year-old Princess Sheikha was staying. The family had rented the entire 4th floor for a few months.
What occurred in the hotel was only discovered after a servant escaped from the luxury Brussels hotel and complained to the local police. Princess Sheikha al-Nahyan and her daughters were alleged to have had people work around the clock without pay, made them sleep on the floor and were forbidden from leaving the hotel.
The princesses were given a 15-month suspended jail term and ordered to pay a £145,000 each, half the sum is suspended.
They were acquited of the more serious charge of inhumane treatment.
Stephen Monod, a representative for the princesses contacted Royal Central to clarify the sentence handed down. In the statement, he noted that the word “trafficking” which was used in the verdict against the princesses did not relate to the trafficking of illegal labour but rather the employment of people in bad conditions.
Princess Sheikha al-Nahyan and her daughters did not attend the trial in person and denied all charges. Human rights activists said that it would have been unlikely that the UAE would extradite them had they been handed a jail sentence.
The princesses lawyer, Stephen Monod, said he was happy “Belgian justice has appropriately assessed this case, which has generated many misconceptions”
However, they may still appeal the decision and would not confirm whether or not his clients would pay the fine.
The trial has been held up for nine years due to legal challenges to proceedings by the defence.
During the trial, the defence blamed the Belgian police for violating the rights of their clients by searching their hotel rooms and called into question the credibility of the witness testimonies.