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Saudi princess free from human trafficking charges as D.A. drops case

Saudi princess free from human trafficking charges as D.A. drops case
Saudi princess Meshael Alayban, 42, listens to an Arabic interpreter during a July appearance in a Santa Ana courtroom. The case against her was dropped Friday. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Human trafficking charges against a Saudi royal princess were dropped in an Orange County courtroom Friday after prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to prove she forced a Kenyan woman to work as a domestic servant.

The Saudi princess, Meshael Alayban, 42, was charged in July with one count of felony human trafficking after officials had said a Kenyan woman managed to leave her gated community in Irvine and flee, carrying a suitcase and a U.S. State Department pamphlet on human trafficking, officials said.

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Alayban was accused of forcing the woman to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for only $220 a month. Authorities had also said that the worker was unable to leave because Alayban kept the woman's passport and documents.

But in court Friday, Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said those accusations could not be corroborated upon further investigation.

"The evidence does not support the charges," he said.

After Orange County Superior Court Judge Gerald G. Johnston dismissed the case, he returned Alayban’s passport. One of her attorneys, Paul S. Meyer, handed the passport back to Alayban and whispered, “Congratulations, you are free.”

The princess -- a wife of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud -- smiled and nodded.

Alayban's defense team has vigorously denied the allegations from the beginning.

Alayban declined to comment outside the courtroom, but Meyer said they had a "mountain of evidence" showing that the charges were baseless.

"The princess is innocent and this confirms that," Meyer said.

He added that the worker had made up the claims in a bid to gain legal status in the U.S.

"Justice was done in this case," Meyer said.

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Twitter: @PalomaEsquivel

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