PARIS – A Saudi princess accused of ordering her bodyguard to assault a workman has gone on trial in Paris in absentia.
Princess Hassa bint Salman – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s sister – faces charges of complicity to violence with a weapon and complicity to kidnap.
Her bodyguard, who is alleged to have made the man kiss her feet as part of the 2016 attack, is also on trial.
Both Princess Hassa, who is the subject of an international arrest warrant, and the bodyguard deny wrongdoing.
Neither the princess nor her accuser were in court, AFP reported. But the bodyguard, Rani Saïdi, was there on Tuesday, surrounded by his family.
Her team has said she is the victim of false allegations.
“The princess is a caring, humble, approachable and cultured woman,” her lawyer Emmanuel Moyne told Reuters news agency before the trial began.
What are the allegations?
Egyptian workman Ashraf Eid told police that, in September 2016, he was working in the Saudi king’s apartment on the exclusive Avenue Foch in Paris when he went to take pictures of the bathroom on his mobile phone so that he could remember where items were placed before he started.
However, the princess suspected him of wanting to sell images he had taken of her in the mirror and called the guard, French reports say. Mr Moyne said Saudi law “prohibits taking any image of the princess”.
According to one French account, the workman accused the princess of saying: “This dog must be killed, he doesn’t deserve to live. You’ll see how you speak to a princess, how you speak to the royal family.”
Mr Eid told police the bodyguard beat him up, binding his hands and forcing him to kiss the princess’s feet.
The bodyguard told the court: “When I heard the princess shouting for help, I got there and saw them grasping the phone with their hands.”
“I seized (him) and overpowered him, I didn’t know what he was after,” he said, according to AFP.
He denies all accusations of violence.
Mr Eid was finally released after several hours without his phone, which was later destroyed.
Lawyers for the princess and the bodyguard dispute Mr Eid’s allegation of being petrified by his experience, pointing out that days later he returned with an invoice for €21,000 (£18,900; $23,500).
Why is Princess Hassa not in Paris?
The bodyguard was placed under investigation for armed violence, theft and holding someone against their will.
However, Princess Hassa – who was questioned about the allegations – left France shortly after the incident.
A judge issued an arrest warrant, which has meant that she has since been forced to stay in Saudi Arabia.
According to UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph, her aides said this was tantamount to keeping her under house arrest.
Mr Moyne said she had offered to appear in court via Skype from her home in the Middle East. -BBC