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Saudi princess in California charged with human trafficking

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

That's just not the way we do things in the United States. A Saudi princess has learned that belatedly and has traded her luxurious condominium in Irvine, California for a cage-like holding space in Orange County. She is accused of holding a 30-year-old female servant against her will and now faces charges of human trafficking.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Forty-two-year-old Meshael Alayban faces one felony count of human trafficking. She is one of the wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud.

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Alayban appeared in an Orange County court in Santa Ana this week. The judge has continued the arraignment until July 29. Kept inside her holding space, she spoke with her attorney through the wire webbing. She's being held in the Orange County jail in lieu of $5 million bail and could face a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison if convicted.

The servant is reportedly a 30-year-old woman from Kenya, who managed to escape and flag down a bus earlier this week. A passenger helped her contact the Irvine Police Department.

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Investigators say the alleged victim had contracted to work with Alayban's family in Saudi Arabia in March of last year. Her salary was set at $1,600 a month for working eight hours a day, five days a week. Once she arrived in Saudi Arabia her passport was allegedly taken away from her. She also says she was paid only $220 a month and forced to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

Alayban's attorney, Paul S. Meyer, indicated in a statement, however, that the incident is essentially a labor dispute. He told the court during the bail hearing that "the police report confirms that there was no physical abuse, no physical restraint, and that the complaints were about hours worked and wages paid," according to his statement.

"We intend to fully investigate all facts, and expect that the truth will resolve this matter," Meyer's statement said.

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Alayban's family had reportedly traveled to the United States in May with the alleged victim and four women from the Philippines under similar contracts.

Irvine detectives and immigration and homeland security agents armed with search warrants found the four other women in the condominium, a news release from police and the Orange County District Attorney's Office says. Police say all five women are in good health and that there were no indications of physical abuse.

It's the first forced labor human trafficking case to be prosecuted in Orange County under California's Proposition 35, which passed in November and increased the penalty for human trafficking.

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