Judge: Dubai ruler threatened wife, had daughters abducted

Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka
March 5, 2020, Associated Press News

The ruler of Dubai conducted a campaign of fear and intimidation against his estranged wife and ordered the abduction of two of his daughters, a British judge ruled in documents that were unsealed Thursday.

A judge at the High Court in London found that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, 70, “acted in a manner from the end of 2018 which has been aimed at intimidating and frightening” his ex-wife Princess Haya, 45.

Judge Andrew McFarlane also said the sheikh “ordered and orchestrated” the abductions and forced return to Dubai of two of his adult daughters from another marriage: Sheikha Shamsa in August 2000, and Sheikha Latifa in 2002 and again in 2018.

The judge made rulings in December and January after a battle between the estranged spouses over the welfare of their two children, but the sheikh fought to prevent them from being made public. The U.K Supreme Court quashed that attempt on Thursday.

Princess Haya, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, married the Dubai ruler in 2004, becoming his second official wife, the court said. Sheikh Mohammed also has several unofficial wives. The couple have a daughter, Jalila, 12, and 8-year-old son Zayed, the youngest of the ruler’s 25 children.

In April 2019, Princess Haya fled the Gulf emirate with her children, saying she had become terrified of her husband’s threats and intimidation.

The threats continued after the princess moved to London, the judge said, adding that the sheikh had used the apparatus of the state “to threaten, intimidate, mistreat and oppress with a total disregard for the rule of law.”

In May 2019, Sheikh Mohammed launched legal action, seeking the children’s return to Dubai, while Princess Haya asked for them to be made wards of the British court and stay in the U.K.

The sheikh later dropped his bid to take the children back to Dubai, and fought unsuccessfully to prevent the court issuing a fact-finding judgment on his wife’s allegations.

The judge found that Haya’s allegations about the threats and abductions met the civil standard of proof on the balance of probabilities.

Princess Haya also alleged that Sheikh Mohammed had made arrangements for Jalila — then aged 11 — to be married to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. The judge said the hearsay evidence for that allegation fell “well short of the required standard” of proof.

Sheikh Mohammed, who is also vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, is popular at home and is seen as a modernizing force. He has, however, faced criticism abroad following reports that his daughter Latifa tried to flee the country and was forcibly returned.

McFarlane supported the allegation that “on two occasions in June 2002 and February 2018, the father ordered and orchestrated the forcible return of his daughter Latifa, now 35, to the family home in Dubai. In 2002 the return was from the border of Dubai with Oman, and in 2018 it was by an armed commando assault at sea near the coast of India.”

The judge said Shamsa, now 38, was abducted from the streets of Cambridge and “has been deprived of her liberty for much if not all of the past two decades.”

Sheikh Mohammed is also the founder of the successful Godolphin horse racing stable and last year received a trophy from Queen Elizabeth II after one of his horses won a race at Royal Ascot. The judge noted that both he and his ex-wife “are said to be on respectful and friendly terms with the British Royal Family.”

Haya, a graduate of Oxford University, is also a keen equestrian and competed in show jumping for Jordan at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She was a two-term president of the International Equestrian Federation and an International Olympic Committee member.

In a statement released after the rulings were published, the sheikh said that “as a head of government, I was not able to participate in the court’s fact-finding process. This has resulted in the release of a ‘fact-finding’ judgment which inevitably only tells one side of the story. ”

“I ask that the media respect the privacy of our children and do not intrude into their lives in the U.K.,” he said.