PARIS — Nearly three years after she was first accused of ordering a bodyguard to assault a man in Paris, Hassa bint Salman, the half sister of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, went on trial in France on Tuesday. The princess returned to Saudi Arabia within days of the incident and is being tried in absentia, despite an international arrest warrant that was issued more than a year after her departure.
In September 2016, prosecutors say, she ordered her bodyguard Rani Saidi to take the phone of a local plumber who was involved in the renovation of a property belonging to the Saudi royal family. Prosecutors say Hassa accused the craftsman of taking photos of her and her apartment and subsequently ordered her bodyguard to physically assault him. The plumber was also absent from court Tuesday.
The princess was quoted as saying of the plumber, Egyptian-born French national Ashraf Eid, that he is a “dog who doesn’t deserve to live,” according to prosecution evidence cited on Tuesday, according to AP.
France’s public prosecutor is pressing for a six-month suspended sentence against the princess, who is currently charged with “theft” and “complicity in violence in kidnapping” against the plumber, who was allegedly held for several hours and allegedly forced to kiss the princess’s feet.
Her bodyguard is likewise charged with “theft” and the “willful use or threat of a weapon.” Both have been asked to pay a fine of 5,000 euros each ($5,600).
Emmanuel Moyne, the princess’s lawyer in France, did not immediately return a request for comment. But he has previously insisted on the princess’s innocence and attested to the quality of her character.
“The princess is a caring, humble, approachable and cultured woman,” Moyne told Reuters.
Yassine Bouzrou, a lawyer for the bodyguard, defended his client’s right to defend the princess.
“My client recognizes having taken [the plumber] aside and overpowering him, because he filmed the princess in her bedroom without authorization,” Bouzrou told The Washington Post, denying the other charges of sequestration and additional violence.
Bouzrou also accused the plumber of an ulterior motive. “I think his motivation is only financial,” he said, noting that in the days following the incident, the plumber returned with an invoice for 21,000 euros ($23,560).
But when his client was asked by the court on Tuesday to explain why the plumber had visible marks on his wrists following the incident, he was unable to explain, according to CNN.
Noack reported from Berlin.