Prosecutor likens Saudi princess' servant case to 'slavery'

Thu Jul 11, 2013 7:46pm EDT
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By Dana Feldman

SANTA ANA, California (Reuters) - A Saudi princess charged with bringing a Kenyan woman to the United States and forcing her to work as a domestic servant could face more charges, a California prosecutor who likened the case to "slavery" said on Thursday.

Meshael Alayban, 42, was arrested on human trafficking charges at her apartment in suburban Irvine early on Wednesday after authorities say the alleged victim escaped from the residence and flagged down a bus driver.

Alayban is charged with bringing the Kenyan woman to the United States in May, confiscating her passport and paying her $220 a month to work 16 hours a day, seven days per week, while essentially holding her captive in the apartment complex.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told reporters he expected the princess, one of six wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud, to post bail and be freed from jail later on Thursday, but said it was possible she would face additional state or federal charges.

When police went to Alayban's apartment in Irvine, about 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles, accompanied by U.S. Immigrations and Customs and Homeland Security Investigations agents they found four Filipina women believed to be working there whose status was unclear.

"It's been 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation so slavery has been illegal in the United States and certainly in California all this time. It's disappointing to see it in use here," Rackauckas said.

The princess made a brief appearance in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana on Thursday, standing in a caged area for criminal defendants and wearing blue jail garb, her dark hair pulled back.

An arraignment hearing in the case was postponed until July 29 at the request of defense attorneys, and Alayban spoke only to respond, "Yes, your honor" when asked by Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett if she understood her rights to be in court.   Continued...

Saudi Arabian princess Meshael Alayban (C), 42, behind bars, listens to advice from defense attorneys Paul Meyer (L) and Jennifer Keller (R) while in court for an arraignment hearing in Santa Ana, California July 11, 2013. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo