LONDON — A Saudi princess, the granddaughter of the nation's founder, is seeking asylum in Britain over fears she could be persecuted by members of her family at home, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
Princess Sara bint Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, also known as the "Barbie" princess due to her pampered upbringing, said she had also applied to Britain's Home Office for political asylum for her four daughters, according to the report.
The ministry said it would not comment on individual cases.
"With deep regret, and as I have been left with no other choice, I have written to the UK Home Office to indicate that I, and my children, wish to be granted political asylum," she said in a statement.
"My reputation has been besmirched in the media by a baseless and malicious smear campaign.
"For years I have endured all this in silence, while trying to resolve my situation with dignity through the normal channels, without fanfare or publicity."
The divorced princess currently lives in London after moving to Britain in 2007 following a falling-out with her 80-year-old father prince Talal bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud.
It is the first time such a claim has been made by a senior member of the ruling family.
Sara, 38, believes senior Saudi officials plotted to have her kidnapped and brought back to Riyadh and claims they subjected her to a "well orchestrated and malicious campaign of persecution".
"I've been physically abused," she told the newspaper. "They've accused me of being in opposition (to them) with Iran. I am very scared right now."
Her passport expired two years after arriving in Britain, and she is now facing deportation as her visa has also run out.
Britain has to decide if her claims are valid and risk sparking a diplomatic spat by accepting her request.
Tensions are currently high within the Saudi royal family due to the illness of King Abdullah and the recent death of Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud.
The deceased prince supported Sara as he was also opposed to her father, and it was reported that his recent death may have sparked the asylum request.
A Saudi embassy diplomat confirmed the embassy had been involved in visa negotiations.
"This matter is of a personal nature so there is only so much the government can do," the diplomat told the paper. "It's not a political matter."
Photo AFP/File, Odd Andersen