Dubai ruler, wife headed for court clash
Published : Saturday, 6 July, 2019 at 6:14 PM Count : 419
The billionaire ruler of in Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum is set for a courtroom battle with one of his wives, Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein, after she allegedly escaped to London with their two children fearing for her safety.
Sources suggest that his treatment of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, his daughter by another wife, will be a key argument in the custody fight, UK based the Telegraph reports.
The family division court case scheduled on July 30 pits Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum against Princess Haya, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan.
The hearing is expected to focus on who will have custody of their two young children now that the princess has left Dubai. She is believed to be in Britain, where she owns a gated mansion on Buckingham Palace Gardens, a private street lined with some of the world's most expensive homes and cars.
It has been said that Princess Haya, 45, fled Dubai after discovering details behind the mysterious return of Sheikha Latifa, one of Sheikh Mohammed's 23 children by different wives.
Sheikha Latifa dramatically fled UAE by boat in February 2018, posting a video at the time claiming she had been held as a virtual prisoner in the palace.
She was later intercepted by armed men off the coast of India. She was last seen in December in a video posted by her family.
There has been renewed scrutiny on her case since it emerged that Princess Haya became the third close relative of Sheikh Mohammed’s to leave Dubai in recent years.
Princess Haya is believed to be staying in the Emirati royal family’s £85 million house in Kensington Palace Gardens.
Sources close to the family say that the Princess, who along with her husband is a friend of the Queen, will seek asylum in Britain.
The Sheikh has made an application against his wife of 15 years in London’s Family Court. The case is before the President of the division for its next hearing on July 30.
It is understood that the case is about custody of the couple’s two children, aged 11 and 7, and sources said that they treatment of Sheikha Latifa will be a central argument.
Business Insider reports: Princess Haya of Jordan has enlisted the expertise of Baroness Shackleton, a lawyer frequently used by the British royal family, to litigate divorce proceedings against her husband, the emir of Dubai, a colleague for the lawyer told Business Insider.
Princess Haya fled to London this month. According to the BBC, she left after learning worrying details of the 2018 disappearance of Sheikha Latifa, one of her husband's, Emir Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, 23 children.
She is now divorcing him at the High Court in London. The BBC, citing sources close to Princess Haya, said she is "afraid for her life."
David Haigh, a lawyer for Sheikha Latifa, told Business Insider that Princess Haya has enlisted Shackleton to handle the case. She is a solicitor to Prince Harry and Prince William and has substantial experience in high-stakes divorce cases.
London's The Times also reported Shackleton's involvement, citing unnamed "legal sources."
Her former clients include Prince Charles, in his 1996 divorce of Princess Diana, and Paul McCartney, in his 2008 divorce of Heather Mills.
Shackleton has yet to respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
A source close to Sheikh Mohammed told Business Insider that the divorce lawyer Lady Helen Ward, of the firm Stewart's, would represent the sheikh during legal proceedings.
The case will be heard at the High Court, which sits at London's Royal Courts of Justice. Hearings are scheduled for July 30 and 31.
According to a Wednesday report by MailOnline, which cited sources close to Princess Haya, the prompt for her departure from Dubai was finding out that Sheikha Latifa tried to run away.
The outlet said Sheikh Mohammed had told Princess Haya that Sheikha Latifa was kidnapped as part of an extortion attempt, rather than fleeing of her own free will.
A BBC documentary last year detailed how Sheikha Latifa spent seven years planning the escape.
Read more: Dubai held a 'gender balance' awards, and every single winner is a man
The documentary details how Emirati commandos caught up with Princess Haya just off the coast of Goa, India, in April, two weeks after she fled.
She was returned to Dubai and has not been heard from in public since.
In December, the Emirati Embassy in London said in a statement that she was alive and "safe in Dubai."
Before her escape, Sheikha Latifa made a video to be released if her escape failed. In it, Sheikha Latifa said she was fleeing physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her father.
Haigh, the lawyer for Sheikha Latifa, told Business Insider that Princess Haya's lawsuit would draw attention back onto the human-rights abuses in the United Arab Emirates.
"It's good news for Latifa, as it's thrown what happened to her into a court which isn't corrupt," he said. "That's good news for anyone who has been abused in the UAE."
Shackleton represented Prince Charles during his split from Princess Diana in 1996 and represented Prince Andrew, Duke of York, during his divorce with Sarah, Duchess of York, the same year.
She also represented the Beatles star Paul McCartney as he divorced Heather Mills in 2008.
Sheikh Mohammed, also an amateur poet, released a mysterious verse this week that appears to allude to Princess Haya's escape to London.
A line in "Affection in Your Eyes" reads: "We have an ailment that no medicine can cure / No experts in herbs can remedy this."
Princess Haya is also suing for custody of the children she shares with Sheikh Mohammed: Zayed, 7, and daughter Al Jalila, 11, Time magazine reported.
Another of his daughters, Sheikha Shamsa, fled the family's English country estate in a Range Rover in 2000 when she was 18, her friends told The Guardian. She was caught and sent to Dubai.
Radha Stirling, the CEO of Detained in Dubai, an advocacy group campaigning for Sheikha Latifa, said in a statement on Monday: "Princess Haya has every reason to fear the consequences if she were to be sent back to Dubai. She surely knows, as Latifa knew, that asylum provides her the only safe route out of the royal palace."
Stirling added: "If she was abused, she could not go to the police; if she wanted a divorce, she could not go to the courts."
The Emirati embassy in London told Business Insider: "This is a private family matter and not one which the UAE government would involve itself in or comment on."