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Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 12:34 GMT
Princess charged with assault in US
Princess Buniah al-Saud (right) with police guard
The princess was arrested in a local hotel
A Saudi princess studying English at a Florida university has been charged with beating up her maid and stealing electronic equipment worth around $6,000.

We don't care where you're from - you just can't do this sort of thing in this country

Jim Solomons
Orange County police

The maid of Princess Buniah al-Saud, a 41-year-old niece of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, said her employer beat her, smashed her head against a wall and pushed her down a flight of stairs in their apartment.

Neighbours called police after the maid, Memet Ismiyati, came crying and injured from the building.

After being arrested and held one night in prison, the princess was released on bail of $5,000 and ordered to surrender her passport.

She is being charged with aggravated battery - which can carry a 15-year prison sentence - as well as theft and dealing in stolen property.

Police said several items, including a large-screen television, were missing from the apartment, which was leased to the princess by her chauffeur, Mohammed El Biyadi.

The goods were later found in the homes of neighbours, who told police they had bought them from Princess Buniah.

"Apparently the princess had sold pretty much all the contents of that apartment," said police spokesman Jim Solomons. "She was, in fact, planning to leave the country."

Previous cases

The princess, who denies the charges, spent her night in prison at Orange County Jail.

She appeared briefly before a judge in a blue prison outfit as bail was set.

Memet Ismiyati
Ms Ismiyati was treated at an Orange County hospital

By surrendering her passport, she has effectively lost the right to leave the country until the case is decided.

According to the US immigration services, the princess is not entitled to diplomatic immunity because she was not in the country fulfilling a diplomatic function.

This is not the first time a Saudi princess has been caught in a bind over maid beating in Florida.

In 1995, another Saudi princess, Princess Maha al-Sudairi, wife of the heir to the throne, was accused of beating a servant in Orange County whom she suspected of stealing $200,000 from her.

No charges were filed.

Princess Buniah is also the second princess this year to fall foul of foreign authorities.

In February, another Saudi royal, Princess Hind al-Fassi, was found guilty in absentia by an Egyptian court of not paying for more than $1m worth of jewellery from a Cairo jewellery shop.

See also:

28 Feb 01 | Middle East
Saudi princess guilty of jewellery theft
08 Dec 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Saudi Arabia's castle of sand
21 Dec 00 | Middle East
Timeline: Saudi Arabia
12 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Saudi Arabia
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