Dubai ruler’s estranged wife seeks protection from U.K. court
London — The estranged wife of Dubai’s ruler applied for protective orders in a British court Tuesday using laws intended to safeguard victims of forced marriages and domestic abuse, while the sheikh’s lawyers requested that their two children be quickly returned to Dubai. Princess Haya, 45, asked for a forced marriage protection order and a non-molestation order during a British High Court hearing that centered on the welfare of her two children with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The forced marriage protection order applied to the children, while the non-molestation order is for herself. The latter is a protective order available to people in Britain who have been victims of domestic violence.
She asked for wardship of the children during the preliminary hearing. The names and ages of the children are not allowed to be published under British law.
Princess Haya, who is Sheikh Mohammed’s sixth wife and the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, reportedly fled Dubai earlier this year.
Family court Judge Andrew McFarlane rejected a request from Sheikh Mohammed’s lawyers to have details about the protective orders subject to reporting restrictions.
“There is a public interest in the public understanding, in very broad terms, proceedings that are before the court,” he said.
The clash between Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya is the latest sign of trouble in Dubai’s ruling family. Last year, a daughter of Sheikh Mohammed tried to flee Dubai after appearing in a 40-minute video saying she had been imprisoned.
Sheikh Mohammed, who turned 70 earlier this month, is also the founder of the successful Godolphin horse racing stable and last month received a trophy from Queen Elizabeth II after one of his horses won a race at Royal Ascot. He was not present at the hearing Tuesday.
CBS News partner network BBC News cited sources close to the princess as saying she may have turned to the U.K. court, after arriving in Britain earlier this year, upon learning more about the mysterious, allegedly forced return to Dubai last year of Sheikha Latifa, one of Sheikh Mohammed’s own daughters.
Latifa escaped from her country by sea, but was intercepted by armed men off the coast of India and taken back to Dubai. She posted a video to Youtube before fleeing comparing her life in the royal court to a gilded prison sentence.
Princess Haya defended Dubai’s reputation amid international pressure over the circumstances of Latifa’s return, claiming she had been brought back to protect her from “exploitation.” Human rights organizations claimed Latifa was abducted and returned to her father’s custody against her wishes.
BBC News’ sources said Princess Haya later learned more about the case, and came under pressure from her husband the Sheikh’s family members.
The drama is playing out 19 years after one of Sheikh Mohammed’s other daughters, Sheikha Shamsa Al Maktoum, clamored through fence at one of her family’s homes south of London, apparently trying to escape from them. BBC News says she was apparently spirited back to Dubai about a year after being found in Cambridge, 50 miles north of the U.K. capital.
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