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Feature Article
Death On The Nile: A Royal Murder Mystery? 2010-09-15
The death in August of the notorious Hind al-Fassi, wife of Prince Turki bin Abd al-Aziz, comes shortly after Turki allegedly called on the Saudi royals to flee the country before the family was forced into exile. Her death prompted accusations of kidnapping and murder, which the al-Fassi family suddenly and without explanation dropped after a visit by Hind's brother to the Kingdom.

by Senior Analyst Talal Kapoor

Hind's death closes one of the most colorful chapters in the royal's history. She died in a hospital outside Cairo, age 52, and was laid to rest at a funeral attended by relatives and the Saudi ambassador to Egypt. She had been hospitalized two days prior, after complaining of stomach pains. Doctors said her medical diagnosis did not suggest any foul play.

Hind was the second wife of Prince Turki, who once enjoyed a prominent role in government. He divorced his first wife, Nura bint Abdallah bin Abd al-Rahman, for Hind, the daughter of an Egyptian father and Moroccan mother. Her father, Shaykh Shams al-Din, was a controversial Sufi mystic, whose teachings were anathema to the Saudi authorities, and before his death, he was prohibited from re-entering Saudi Arabia.

After meeting the beautiful 20-year old Hind in 1973, Turki, then 39, took her abroad and later married her, despite strong objections by the royal family. Hind's sister, four brothers and mother joined a massive entourage of bodyguards, cooks and servants, and for nine years they roamed the world, spending spectacular sums on lavish parties, chartered jets, hotel suites by the floor, and extravagant luxuries. Hind's influence over her husband Turki was said to be profound. From Geneva, to the Canary Islands, Marbella, and London, the disruptive group caused scandal and sensation wherever they went, creating headlines with their outlandish lifestyle and unrestrained spending. Finally, at the end of the decade, Turki's entourage encamped on Florida's Gold Coast - at a North Miami condominium, the Cricket Club, overlooking Biscayne Bay.

Things spiralled out of control in 1982. Complaints of servants' forcible confinement caused Miami police to storm the Cricket Club compound, and suits and countersuits soon began to fly between Turki and the Florida State Attorney. Finally, the State Department arranged for a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia to serve as intermediary and secure face-saving diplomatic immunity for Turki. But the scandal was too much for the royals at home, and King Fahd issued a polite yet firm command for his brother to return to the fold.

For a time, Turki seemed relieved to be settled again, but the entourage once again relocated, this time to Egypt, where they took over the top three floors of the Ramses Hilton in Cairo. Scandal followed even in Turki's voluntary self-imposed exile. From the mid-1990s the Cairo press was filled with stories of beatings, imprisonment of servants, thuggish behaviour by bodyguards, and other abuses inflicted by the Prince's entourage. In 1998, two Egyptian waiters fell from the 28th story window while trying to rappel down the outside of the hotel using tied-together bed sheets, claiming they were trying to escape forcible confinement. Hind herself was tried and convicted in Egypt for robbery, in a case where she owed a local jeweler thousands of dollars but refused to pay. She was tried in absentia since she did not appear before the tribunal or send any legal representation. Again in 2001 she was sentenced in absentia by an Egyptian court to a one-year prison term for failing to pay a US$2.5 million debt, though she was never jailed or expelled from Egypt.

Turki himself was said to be "bewitched" by Hind, and had little control over what went on in the family apartments. Hind was apparently in charge of screening Turki's visitors and calls, and the more serious allegations had Turki "juiced up" on prescription medication so that he was unaware of what was happening around him. Some reports had Hind entertaining male guests, including a couple of well-known Arab singers, in her apartments, while Turki was unconscious.

murder, or no murder?
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