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Dubai ruler threatened wife, orchestrated daughters' abduction, UK court rules

Princess Haya and her husband both have close links to the UK [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 March, 2020

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum led a far-reaching campaign of intimidation against his estranged wife and 'ordered and orchestrated' the abduction of his daughters, a UK court has ruled.
A UK court ruled on Thursday that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, organised the kidnapping of two of his children and subjected his wife - who fled the Gulf kingdom for Britain last year - to a campaign of harassment, the Guardian has reported.

The judge ruled that 70-year-old Sheikh Mohammed's actions, which include torture of his daughter Princess Latifa, potentially amount to breaking UK and international law, and could therefore impact relations between Britain and its close Gulf ally.

The High Court ruling comes after eight months of closed-door hearings and extensive witness statements have been published in a Fact Finding Judgement (FFJ). The FFJ confirms allegations of the billionaire ruler’s abuse put forward by his estranged wife Princess Haya, who fled Dubai last April with her two children allegedly fearing for her life.

The ruling also confirms that the notorious disappearances of two of Sheikh Mohammed’s daughters from a previous marriage, Shamsa and Latifa, in 2000 and 2018 respectively, were  "ordered and orchestrated" by their father. The two women were forcibly returned back to Dubai and remain “deprived of liberty”, the court said.

The judge made the ruling in January but the sheikh, who was found to have "not been open and honest with the court" fought to prevent it from being made public. The UK Supreme Court quashed that attempt on Thursday, ruling that the findings were in the public interest.

According to the FFJ, Shamsa fled her family's UK estate in Surrey in 2000 aged 19, but was subsequently abducted on the streets of Cambridge by agents working for her father. Shamsa was allegedly injected with a sedative and forced back to Dubai where she has been held captive until today. 

Cambridgeshire Police investigating her disappearance requested to visit Dubai, but were refused.

Latifa made two attempts to escape her father's family, in 2002 and 2018. Following the first attempt she was held captive by her father in Dubai for more than three years. In the later attempt made when she was 32, Latifa was helped by friends to escape Dubai by boat. 

However she was recaptured off the Indian coast and forcibly returned home, where she continues to be under house arrest. The judge ruled that allegations of serious physical abuse amounted to torture.

Latifa published a video on social media before her 2018 escape attempt, where she documented her situation and the abuse she had suffered for decades at the hands of her father.

The court also found Princess Haya, the daughter of Jordan's late King Hussain, to have undergone a serious campaign of harassment and abuse by Sheikh Mohammed and his staff before and after she escaped including having guns left on her pillow and an attempt to abduct her by helicopter.

After marrying in 2004, Haya said she initially believed her husband’s explanation that he had "rescued" his daughters, but grew suspicious as the years went by and voiced her concerns to Sheikh Mohammed.

Princess Haya moved to London last year and applied to the court for protective orders, using British laws intended to safeguard victims of forced marriage and domestic abuse.

The forced marriage protection was requested for her daughter, who she alleges her ex-husband was attempting to marry off to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The judge ruled the allegation unproven.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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