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France investigating slavery claims against Saudi prince

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file image shows the city hall of Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb west of Paris where Saudi prince Faisal Bin Turki Bin Abdallah Al Saud owns a luxurious apartment.

French prosecutors have been probing complaints filed by seven employees against a Saudi prince that accuse him of keeping them in a state of modern-day slavery at his apartment outside Paris.

The women, most of them from the Philippines, had been recruited as maids in Saudi Arabia and worked for Prince Faisal Bin Turki Bin Abdallah Al Saud and his family there and in France, where the prince owns a luxurious apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a wealthy suburb west of Paris, for several years.

The prosecutors' office in the suburb city of Nanterre said on Monday that the inquiry for human trafficking had been opened after the women filed complaints of modern-day slavery in October 2019, after they apparently ran away from the family during a trip to France.

The maids said they were forced to work 24 hours a day seven days a week, and barely had time to eat while serving the prince's four children, who were allowed to spit on the women.

"The first time we met with them, what was shocking to see was that they were hungry. They were crying with hunger," Anick Fougeroux, head of the NGO, SOS Esclaves ("Slaves"), told Le Parisien newspaper.

Fougeroux added that the maids had to lower their heads when they passed members of the family and some were required to sleep on the ground.

The alleged abuses took place in 2008, 2013, and 2015.

AFP cited a source close to the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, as saying that prosecutors had heard testimony from the women a few weeks earlier, but the prince, who is not currently in France, has yet to be interrogated.

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