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Princess’ lawyers paint different portrait on servant’s treatment

Princess’ lawyers paint different portrait on servant’s treatment
Authorities have accused Meshael Alayban, 42, of forcing a Kenyan woman to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week for $220 a month.
(Associated Press)

Attorneys for a Saudi Arabian princess accused of human trafficking on Monday offered a starkly different take on the life of a Kenyan domestic servant who prosecutors said was forced to work long hours for little pay.

Meshael Alayban, 42, was arrested at her home in Irvine this month for allegedly forcing the Kenyan woman to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for $220 a month. The servant, who has a young daughter in Kenya, could not leave because her passport was kept in a safe deposit box at a local bank, prosecutors said.

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Alayban was released from custody on $5-million bail July 11. She is required to wear a GPS tracking device and is not allowed to leave Orange County without permission from the court. At a hearing in Orange County Superior Court on Monday, Alayban’s arraignment was postponed until Sept. 20.

After the hearing, defense attorneys Jennifer L. Keller and Paul S. Meyer offered a portrait of the servant’s living situation that contrasted sharply with what has emerged from prosecutors and police.

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They said the woman, whose name has not been released, and other employees of the Alaybans traveled first-class to the U.S. on Emirates Airline with tickets that cost $10,000 each.

The family and the workers flew together “because the family would have felt guilty if they were in the back,” Keller said.

The family and servants arrived in May and moved into a high-end Irvine apartment community. Once there, the servants had cellphones and access to the Internet and Facebook, and the family gave them access to cable channels in their native languages, according to a statement provided by Keller and Meyer.

The workers were allowed to use the spa, gym and pool and “were often dropped off to shop alone at neighborhood malls, all paid for by the family,” the statement said.

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Prosecutors have said that the servant was refused a day off and not allowed to take breaks. They also said she was barred from leaving the home except for family outings in which she carried the family’s bags.

Orange County Dist. Atty. Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder said her office always welcomes new evidence but, she added, “it’s not unusual when you have defendants of this magnitude of resources, for them to try and make the victim of crime be the bad guy.”

paloma.esquivel@latimes.com


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