Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, the youngest wife of the multi-billionaire ruler of Dubai, has urged a British court to protect one of her children by granting a forced marriage protection order.
The Jordanian princess, who fled to Britain in May with her two children “in fear for her life”, is fighting an application from her husband, Sheikh Mohammed, for the “summary return” of the youngsters to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Jordanian princess is also seeking a non-molestation order, a process normally used to protect someone who claims they have been subjected to domestic violence. However, the details surrounding the order, including to whom it applies, cannot be reported.
The children are living with their mother in her £85 million home in Kensington, west London. The princess has applied successfully for them to be wards of court, and any decisions about their future cannot be made without the approval of the presiding judge, Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the Family Courts Division.
Princess Haya, 45, attended the first day of the preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. It is the first time she has been seen in public since she left her family home in the Gulf last month.
In what is likely to be one of the most expensive child welfare cases in British family court history that may reveal how women are treated in the Dubai royal household, Princess Haya sat next to her lawyer, Baroness Shackleton, and stared intently, listening to proceedings.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, 70, the founder of the Godolphin horse racing stable and thought to be worth £9 billion, is not in court but is represented by Lady Helen Ward, a family and divorce lawyer.
He and his estranged wife are both friends with the Queen, due to their shared love of horses.
A court order is in place which means the names, ages and gender of their two children and details of the case cannot be reported. However, according to the Government’s website, the “forced marriage protection order” the princess is seeking for one of her children is commonly used to prevent someone “threatened with a forced marriage” leaving the country.
The former Olympic equestrian, who became the sheikh’s sixth wife in 2004, was said to have flown on a private jet to Germany, before making her way to the UK. While the exact details of why she left are not known, some have said it stemmed from the earlier treatment of two of the sheikh’s princess daughters who also tried to flee.
Princess Latifa, 33, ran away from Dubai last year to try to seek asylum.
However, she was seized off the coast of India by commandos and returned to Dubai. She recorded a video before her capture in which she warned her life was a sham and claimed she had suffered abuse. In December last year, Princess Latifa was pictured alongside Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and friend of Princess Haya, in the Dubai family home in what was largely seen as a publicity stunt.
In 2000, Princess Shamsa ran away from her father’s estate near Chobham in Surrey. It is believed she was later abducted and returned to Dubai.
It has been claimed Princess Haya, the half-sister of King Abdullah II of Jordan, fled Dubai because she learnt “the truth” about Princess Latifa.
The sheikh, the vice-president and prime minister of the UAE as well as leader of Dubai, is said to have 23 children by his different wives.
A poem recently appeared on his official Instagram page thought to have been written by him which accused an unnamed woman of “treachery and betrayal”.
The judge on Tuesday allowed the media to report how Princess Haya had applied for wardship of their children, as well as for a forced marriage protection order and a non-molestation order.
Rejecting an application by Sheikh Mohammed’s lawyers for those details to be subject to reporting restrictions, Sir Andrew ruled that “there is a public interest in the public understanding, in very broad terms, proceedings that are before the court.”
The hearing continues.