Dubai princess seeks forced marriage protection order in UK

Jane Croft
July 30, 2019, The Financial Times

Princess Haya embroiled in court proceedings with ruler of city over welfare of their 2 children

Princess Haya (right) leaves court in London with her lawyer Fiona Shackleton (© Tolga Akmen/AFP)

Princess Haya, the estranged wife of the billionaire ruler of Dubai, has made an application to a London court for a forced marriage protection order for one of her children as part of a high-profile family dispute.

The princess, who is the half sister of Jordan’s King Abdullah, is embroiled in court proceedings with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the UAE, over the welfare of their two children.

The family division of the High Court heard on Tuesday that Princess Haya is also seeking a non-molestation order, a type of injunction, and an application for wardship for the children — which in effect means no decisions can be made about their welfare without the court’s approval. Sheikh Maktoum is applying for an order to allow the return of the children to Dubai.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the Family Division, permitted broad information about the applications to be reported following a court hearing on Tuesday morning.

Princess Haya (left) and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum at Royal Ascot in England in 2010 (© Luke MacGregor/Reuters)

Ahead of the hearing, all that had been confirmed about the case was a statement jointly issued by the two parties stating that their legal battle in the English courts was related to the welfare of their children but did not concern divorce or finances.

Princess Haya attended court in person on Tuesday. This is the first time she has been seen in public since last month, when she apparently left Sheikh Mohammed and moved to the UK with the children.

She is being represented by a top legal team that includes Fiona Shackleton, the lawyer who is renowned for her expertise in high-profile family cases, including representing Prince Charles in his 1996 divorce from Diana, Princess of Wales.

Sheikh Mohammed was represented by Lady Helen Ward, a partner at Stewarts Law who has represented Guy Ritchie, the British film director, in his divorce from Madonna. His legal team also included Desmond Browne QC, a well known media barrister.

Several representatives of the overseas media were not permitted by Sir Andrew to sit in the court during hearing because they did not hold UK-accredited press cards and might not be bound by reporting orders issued by the English courts.

The court case has shone a spotlight on the Sheikh’s private life and the alleged treatment of Sheikha Latifa, 33, who is a daughter of one of the Dubai ruler’s other wives. There are allegations that Princess Latifa tried to flee Dubai last year but was abducted from a yacht by Emirati forces and returned to the UAE.

She has not been seen in public since she was photographed with Mary Robinson, the former Irish president, in a meeting in December.