March 5, 2020 / 4:51 PM / a month ago

Findings in UK court battle between Dubai's sheikh and former wife

LONDON (Reuters) - Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum abducted two of his daughters and waged a campaign of intimidation against his former wife, a British judge ruled in judgements published on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, the wife of Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and her lawyer Baroness Fiona Shackleton leave High Court in London, Britain, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson

The findings emerged during a wardship battle with his ex-wife, Jordanian Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, over their two children which took place at London’s High Court over the last nine months.

    Following are some of the “findings of fact” established by Judge Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Court division in England and Wales. They can now be reported after court restrictions were lifted.

    * SHEIKHA SHAMSA

In June 2000, Shamsa, daughter of Mohammed and Algerian wife Huriah Ahmed al M’aash, fled from her family while on holiday in England.

    Mohammed ordered the phone of one of her friends to be tapped to trace her whereabouts. On Aug. 19, she was abducted off the streets of Cambridge, central England, and taken to Mohammed’s property, Dalham Hall, near Newmarket.

    The judge said it seemed that Shamsa was drunk at the time.

    She was flown by helicopter to Deauville in France and then by private jet to Dubai.

    “I’m locked up until today,” she wrote. “I haven’t seen anyone, not even the man you call my father. I told you this would happen.”

    Shamsa has not been seen in public since her disappearance.

Reuters could not independently verify details of what happened to her or her sister Latifa which came out during the court case.

    Mohammed’s argument, outlined in court, was that Shamsa was vulnerable and had gone missing and that he and his wife had embarked on a “search” because they were worried. There was no explanation as to why he had not contacted the police.

    * SHEIKHA LATIFA

    Shamsa’s younger sister Latifa attempted to run away from her family, first in 2002 and again in 2018.

    In March, 2018, a human rights group released a 45-minute video made by Latifa which brought her case to worldwide attention.

    Latifa said at the age of 18 she attempted to leave the United Arab Emirates to flee to Oman where she hoped to find a lawyer. She arranged to be driven over the border with Oman, where she was identified and was returned to the family home.

    Latifa said she was imprisoned for more than three years where she faced “constant torture” from her captors, including being woken in the middle of the night to be beaten and time in solitary confinement. She claims her captors were working on her father’s orders.

    After her release from prison, Latifa said her movements in Dubai were limited and she had no passport and could not drive.

    In February, 2018, Latifa attempted to escape again on board a dinghy. On March 4, armed Indian coast guards boarded the boat she was on 20 miles off the coast of India in international waters. Those on board were taken to Dubai.

India’s foreign ministry and the Dubai government’s media office did not respond to Reuters requests for comment on the alleged operation off India.

In her 45-minute video, Latifa said: “I’m making this video because it could be the last video I make ... And if you are watching this video it’s not such a good thing. Either I’m dead or I’m in a very, very, very bad situation.”

She described her father as “the most evil person I’ve ever met in my life”.

In his ruling McFarlane described the account Latifa had given the video as “convincing”.

“I feel confident in relying upon all that Latifa has said in her video film and elsewhere both about her earlier abortive attempt to escape over the border to Oman and her subsequent detention,” he said.

* PRINCESS HAYA

The judge found that there was evidence of a campaign of intimidation against Haya.

    At some stage in 2017 or 2018 Haya engaged in an adulterous affair with her bodyguard.

    Mohammed divorced her under Sharia law on Feb. 7, 2019, the date of the 20th anniversary of the death of Haya’s father King Hussein of Jordan.

    A month later, a helicopter arrived outside Haya’s house and the pilot said he had come to take a passenger to a prison in the desert.

    During this period, Haya began to receive anonymous notes, left in her bedroom or elsewhere, making threats against her.

    “We will take your son – your daughter is ours – your life is over,” one said.

    On two occasions in March 2019, Haya says she found a gun left on her bed with the muzzle pointing towards the door and the safety catch off.

    Haya then fled to England in April 2019 with her children.

    In June, Mohammed published a poem called “You lived and died”, which Haya said was a direct threat to her.

    The poem includes the words: “Let’s see if mischief brings you benefits I care not whether you live or die.”

    Charles Geekie, one of Haya’s lawyers, said: “On a plain reading to anybody this is a direct and threatening poem.”

    Mohammed’s lawyer told the court it was not intended as a threat to her personal safety. He said it reflected the sheikh’s indifference given her “infidelity.”

* SENIOR BRITISH POLICE OFFICER

    A former senior British police officer took up a job working for Haya and he was threatened by another retired officer working for Mohammed.

    This officer warned him to stop working for Haya or he would be discredited through false allegations, including claims of corruption.

    After the officer continued working for Haya, he received a warning which said that “the media war has started”.

    Lawyers for Haya said more than 1,100 articles were published in the media between June 24 and July 14, 2019, including allegations she was an agent of Hamas and was intending to overthrow the state of Jordan.

    The judge said there appeared to be a direct connection between Mohammed and many of the negative press reports.

Reporting by Michael Holden and Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Mike Collett-White

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