A sister of Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince went on trial on Tuesday in a French court over the alleged beating by her bodyguard of a labourer doing repairs on her luxury Paris apartment.
Hassa bint Salman is a daughter of King Salman Abdul Aziz and half-sister of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – seen by many analysts as the de-facto leader of the oil-rich Gulf kingdom.
She stands accused in absentia of ordering her bodyguard, who is also charged, to beat up Ashraf Eid after he was seen taking a photo inside her home in September 2016.
Eid, who worked in the high-end block of flats, had been called in to repair a damaged basin. He told French investigators he needed the pictures taken with his phone to carry out the work.
The princess, who denies the allegations and was not present in court, suspected Eid of planning to sell the photo of her apartment on the Avenue Foch, long a favourite destination for foreign millionaires in western Paris.
Eid, who was also not present in court, has said he was tied up and ordered to kiss the feet of the princess – who is believed to be in her 40s and is lionised in Saudi state-run media for charity work.
The repairman said he was then beaten up and had his tools confiscated during an ordeal that lasted several hours.
In an account given to Le Point news magazine in France, Eid reported the princess shouted “kill him, the dog, he doesn’t deserve to live”.
The princess – believed to have returned to Saudi Arabia – is subject to an arrest warrant issued in France in March 2018. She was charged with complicity in armed violence, complicity in holding someone against their will, and theft.
Rani Saidi, the Saudi bodyguard, accompanies the princess on her travels in Europe and the United States. He was the only one involved in the case present for the first court hearing, surrounded by his family.
“When I heard the princess cry for help, I came and saw them gripping the phone,” he told the court.
“I grabbed him and overpowered him. I did not know his intentions,” he said. “In 12 years of work, we had stories like that. Arabs want photos and the princess is someone very important for them.”
Saidi’s lawyer, Yassine Bouzrou, questioned the worker’s version of events.
“My client contests that there was any act of violence and any act of kidnapping,” he told reporters outside the court. “It is the word of one against the word of the other.”
He said there were elements in the case that “contradict the plaintiff’s version” and called for the acquittal of his client.
Eid’s lawyer, Georges Karouni, said he would prefer to comment at the end of the hearing, while the Saudi princess’ lawyer, Emmanuel Moyne, made no comment.