The Sunday Times said that Caitlin McNamara, 32, claims she was attacked by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, 69, the minister of tolerance in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) cabinet.
The alleged assault took place on Valentine’s Day this year at a remote private island villa where McNamara thought she had been summoned to discuss preparations for the inaugural Hay Festival Abu Dhabi.
The newspaper said that McNamara has been interviewed by Scotland Yard.
At the time of the attack, McNamara had spent almost six months working at Sheikh Nahyan’s tolerance ministry, having been hired by the Hay festival to organize its first collaboration with the UAE.
McNamara said that after formally inviting her for dinner, Sheikh Nahyan took her to a villa on a small island which she believes to have been part of Abu Dhabi’s Al Gurm Resort.
“That’s when he started touching me,” she said.
“It was creepy. He was on the sofa next to me and began touching my arm and feet and I was pulling away, then he got forceful… Suddenly, it clicked why I was there. I felt so naive.”
McNamara said she also felt scared. “I was alone on this island in a concrete building with this powerful man in a country where every day you heard stories about people disappeared in the desert.”
When she complained, instead of letting her go, McNamara said the sheikh took her on a tour of the villa.
So scared was she that she cannot explain how she got away.
According to the Sunday Times, Baroness Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, a high-profile women’s rights campaigner, has organized for London lawyers Carter Ruck to represent McNamara pro bono.
Carter Ruck will examine whether they could prosecute Nahyan in the UK under Universal Jurisdiction laws, which they argue should mean human rights abuses such as torture and detaining someone against their will can be tried in any country.
A legal opinion has been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service, the Sunday Times said. McNamara was told a decision was expected last month on whether they would go ahead but they are still waiting.
Sheikh Nahyan did not respond to calls or messages from The Sunday Times over the allegations, which were also sent via his press adviser.
A letter was sent by London libel lawyers Schillings with the following statement: “Our client is surprised and saddened by this allegation, which arrives eight months after the alleged incident and via a national newspaper. The account is denied.”
On Saturday, directors of the Hay festival pledged never to return to UAE again while Sheikh Nahyan remains in post.
Caroline Michel, chair of the Hay board, described the assault “as an appalling violation and a hideous abuse of trust and position”.