Court holds Emir of Dubai responsible for kidnapping and torture

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The Emir of Dubai had tried to keep the matter secret until the very end. But nothing came of it. The London High Court has now published court rulings that have so far been kept secret, blaming Sheikh Mohammed bin Raschid Al Maktum for the kidnapping of two of his daughters and the intimidation of one of his wives. These are documents of abuse of power that expose the Emir of Dubai as an unscrupulous ruler who, according to the court, does not shy away from torture.

The sentences were handed down in a custody dispute between the 70-year-old sheikh and his youngest wife, Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein. Last spring, the 45-year-old had fled from Dubai to London with her daughter Jalila, twelve, and son Zayed, seven. Haya told the court there that she felt increasingly threatened by her husband before her escape. In order to intimidate her, the sheik had had a gun placed on her bed at least twice. In her bedroom she also found an unmistakable message written by an anonymous sender: “We will take your son from you – your daughter belongs to us – your life is over.”

One day, one of the Sheikh’s helicopters landed in front of her house while she was at home with her two children. According to court records, the pilot told her he would take her to Awir, a notorious prison in Dubai. The sheikh confirmed to the London High Court that one of his helicopters had landed in front of Haya’s house, saying that this was “simply a mistake”. According to the court, this and all the other incidents have put the princess “in great fear”.

There were probably two main reasons for the intimidation attempts: Haya had started an extramarital relationship with her British bodyguard. In addition, she expressed her growing concern about how two daughters of the Emir had been treated, although they were not her children.

Attempted escape by yacht
One daughter, Sheikha Latifa, now 34 years old, had tried to leave the United Arab Emirates in 2018 with a yacht. But the escape attempt failed off the Indian coast. She is said to have been stopped by a special commando and forcibly returned to Dubai. In a video she had explained before why she did not want to live in a golden cage anymore. She accused her father of killing to preserve his good reputation.

It was then already her second attempt to flee her homeland. Already in 2002 she had been detained under inhumane conditions according to her own statements – according to the court it was torture.

Her older sister Sheikha Shamsa, now 38 years old, was kidnapped in Great Britain in 2000 and brought back to Dubai after she had tried to break away from home. Both daughters of the emir are still being held captive. In a statement, the Sheikh said that the events identified by the court “tell only one side of the story”; he asked that his children’s private lives be respected.

At least 25 children of different women
The judge in charge, Sir Andrew McFarlane, stated that Princess Haya’s allegations had been thoroughly examined and found to be credible. In the end she had no choice but to leave Dubai with her two children.

Haya is the youngest of a total of six wives of the Emir and the half-sister of the Jordanian King Abdullah II. The Emir of Dubai, who is also Vice President, Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of the United Arab Emirates, has at least 25 children of different women. Haya told the court that she fears that her daughter and her son could suffer the same fate as Shamsa and Latifa. The published verdicts will now feed into the court’s decision in the custody dispute between the sheikh and the princess.

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Mette Frederiksen is a The Washington Newsday correspondent. With her coverage of general science, NASA and the interface between technology and society, Frederiksen has been in the Science Desk's Technology Beat since joining Washington Newsday in 2018.

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