Saudi princess on trial in France over bodyguard beating

Princess Hassa bint Salman to be tried in absentia over allegations she asked a bodyguard to beat up a workman in 2016.

    Hassa bint Salman denies any wrongdoing while her French lawyer says the case is based on falsehoods [File: Ian Langsdon/EPA]
    Hassa bint Salman denies any wrongdoing while her French lawyer says the case is based on falsehoods [File: Ian Langsdon/EPA]

    Saudi Arabia's Princess Hassa bint Salman will go on trial in absentia on Tuesday on charges of complicity to violence with a weapon and complicity to kidnap an Egyptian-born artisan who was carrying out repairs at her father's residence on Paris' exclusive Avenue Foch in September 2016.

    According to the indictment, seen by Reuters News Agency, workman Ashraf Eid told police the bodyguard bound his hands, punched and kicked him and forced him to kiss the princess' feet after she accused him of filming her on his mobile phone.

    The bodyguard was placed under formal investigation on suspicion of armed violence, theft and holding a person against their will and denied bail on October 1, 2016.

    Eid told police that, as he was being beaten, Princess Hassa treated him like a dog and said to him "You'll see how you speak to a princess; how you speak to the royal family."

    The princess, 43, the sister of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), denies any wrongdoing.

    Her French lawyer Emmanuel Moyne said the investigation was based on falsehoods and he said she had never made such remarks.

    "The princess is a caring, humble, approachable and cultured woman," Moyne said. "Saudi law, and ensuring the princess' security, prohibits taking any image of the princess."

    The Saudi government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    An international arrest warrant for the princess was issued in November, 2017.

    France has nurtured close ties with Saudi Arabia but relations have been tested by President Emmanuel Macron's determination to salvage Iran's nuclear accord, which Saudi Arabia, alongside the United States, adamantly opposes.

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    The princess' lawyer said the existence of the arrest warrant ruled out her attendance at Tuesday's hearing, adding that their efforts to enable investigators to question her by video-conference had been rebuffed.

    "And yet this is the most basic right of defence," Moyne said.

    A lawyer for the bodyguard said his client denied the allegations levelled against him and that the princess had never ordered him to be violent towards another person.

    Saudi royalty has faced legal problems in France before.

    In 2013, a court in France ordered the French assets of Saudi Princess Maha al-Sudairi, wife of former Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, to be seized over unpaid bills at a luxury hotel totalling almost $6.7m.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency