A Saudi royal princess accused of human trafficking for allegedly forcing a Kenyan woman to work for her as a domestic servant will be back in court Monday morning.
Meshael Alayban, 42, is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Orange County Superior Court.
According to prosecutors, Alayban forced the Kenyan woman to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for $220 a month. The woman could not leave Alayban’s Irvine summer home because her passport was kept in a safe deposit box at a local bank, prosecutors said.
Earlier this month, the woman left the Irvine home and called police with the help of a person she met on a bus.
Alayban was arrested July 10 and charged with felony human trafficking, which carries a maximum sentence of 12 years in state prison, if convicted.
Alayban has been out of custody since the Saudi Arabian consulate posted $5 million bail on her behalf about one day after her arrest. She was ordered to wear a GPS tracking device and told not to leave Orange County without the court’s permission. She was also barred from having contact with her alleged victim.
Prosecutors said the alleged victim came to the U.S. with Alayban and her family in May after having lived with the family in Saudi Arabia for about one year. Both had temporary visas. Alayban’s attorney, Paul S. Meyer, has said the matter boils down to a wage and hour dispute between Alayban and the servant.
The case was met with shock and outrage in Irvine, a city famous as a melting pot of many cultures. But experts and law enforcement officials said that in Saudi Arabia, the servant's working arrangement is fairly commonplace.
"The people who are hired as such think they're getting a benefit from it.... They're getting a roof over their head. They're getting fed," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of homeland security investigations in Los Angeles and southern Nevada. "On the face of it they think they're getting treated well. So they don't think of themselves as victims."
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