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Princess Arrested In Orlando

After a night in jail, a Saudi princess charged with beating her maid and pushing her down a flight of stairs was freed on $5,000 bond and told to surrender her passport.

Princess Buniah al-Saud also was charged Tuesday with grand theft and with dealing in stolen property. Investigators said she stole $6,000 worth of electronics equipment and furniture from her former chauffeur.

The niece of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, al-Saud walked out of Orange County Jail on Tuesday night and was whisked away in a waiting limousine. Al-Saud, who was wearing a sleeveless shirt and pants, did not speak.

She was arrested Monday on charges of beating Memet Ismiyati, her Indonesian maid. The princess has been living in Orlando while studying English.

Al-Saud was dressed in a blue jail jumpsuit when she appeared before a judge via a video link between the jail and the Orange County Courthouse. She said nothing, but smiled brightly at the camera when the brief afternoon hearing began.

She was told to surrender her passport and to not have any contact with the maid. Her attorney, Bud Bennington, said during the hearing she would return to Washington. He did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the charges.

Police say the stolen property belonged to al-Saud's former driver, Mohammed el-Biyadi, whose name was on the lease of the town house apartment where the princess was staying with Ismiyati. El-Biyadi told police that when he returned to the apartment Tuesday, he discovered that the townhouse's locks had been changed and most of his property missing.

Al-Saud had given the property to a neighbor and written a contract to sell it, according to Orange County Undersheriff Malone Stewart. All the property was returned to el-Biyadi, who had receipts showing the items were his.

"The only speculation is that she needed money real fast," says Stewart.

Al-Saud, 41, could get up to 15 years in prison if convicted of felony battery. She faces an additional 10 years in prison for the theft and stolen property charges.

Neighbors called police Friday after Ismiyati, 36, ran crying from the apartment she shared with the princess. She told deputies al-Saud beat her, hit her head against a wall and pushed her down a flight of stairs.

"When we talked to her (Ismiyati) through an Indonesian interpreter and saw the extent of her injuries, we upgraded the charges to a felony," Stewart said.

Ismiyati told deputies she "couldn't take it anymore."

On a police operator's audiotape released by the sheriff's office, Ismiyati can be heard crying hysterically in the background while a neighbor talks to a dispatcher.

"Help me. Help me. The boss pushed me down the stairs," Ismiyati told the dispatcher through an Indonesian translator on the telephone.

Ismiyati was treated at a hospital and released, but she was bruised badly and is walking with a cane, Sgt. Ken Mohler said.

When deputies went to the princess' apartment Friday, she dnied striking or pushing the maid, according to deputies' reports.

Deputies contacted the Saudi Embassy in Washington after al-Saud told them she had diplomatic immunity and embassy officials backed her claim.

"The information that we received from the Saudi Embassy was inaccurate information," Stewart said. "The information they gave to us was not the truth."

No one answered the phone at the embassy press office Tuesday evening.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday that he was unaware that al-Saud had been granted diplomatic immunity, but added he didn't think the episode would affect relations between the two nations.

"I don't think we can take one case and believe that it really disrupts that whole relationship," Boucher said.

In 1995, another Saudi princess was accused of beating her servants while visiting Orlando. Princess Maha Al-Sudairi, wife of the heir to the Saudi throne, reportedly beat a servant suspected of stealing $200,000 in cash and jewelry in front of off-duty deputies providing her security. The deputies were later disciplined for not stopping the beating, not writing a report about it and not investigating a tip that another servant had been beaten.

By Mike Schneider © MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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