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Dubai emir trying to keep judgements in legal battle with Jordanian princess secret

Sheikh Mohammed attempting to stop publication of ruling concerning his children with Princess Haya, court told
Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, the wife of Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, arrives at the High Court in London (Reuters)

The ruler of Dubai is trying to block the publication of two UK family court judgements in a case involving his children with the emir's estranged wife Princess Haya.

Lord Justice Underhill issued a statement on Wednesday at the beginning of a hearing at the Court of Appeal in London, revealing that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum is seeking to challenge a decision to allow the release of the judgements reached last month.

In May last year, Sheikh Mohammed, the United Arab Emirates' vice-president, asked England's High Court to force the return of his children to Dubai, after his marriage to Princess Haya dissolved and she fled with them to London.

In response, Princess Haya, the half-sister of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, made applications for a forced marriage protection order and non-molestation order, with hearings beginning in London in July last year. 

Judge Andrew MacFarlane, president of the High Court’s family division, delivered two judgements at the end of January on questions that had to be settled before hearings began on the children’s welfare, Underhill said.

“The first concerned certain disputed factual issues; the second concerned issues arising out of the special position of the father as the sovereign and head of government of a foreign state,” he said.

“Both raise matters of public interest beyond the particular issue in the wardship proceedings.”

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However, Sheikh Mohammed has now turned to the Court of Appeal, contending that MacFarlane’s decision that the two judgements, as well as the reports of the relevant hearings, should be published was "wrong in law".

“The appeal is opposed by the mother, the independent guardian appointed by the court to represent the children’s interests, and by a number of media organisations,” Underhill said.

All hearings in the case at the High Court have been held in private, with members of the press able to attend but their reporting on proceedings strictly limited. The hearing at the Court of Appeal, too, followed the same restrictions.

Though Princess Haya has appeared at previous hearings in court, Sheikh Mohammed is yet to do so.

The legal battle and high-profile split with his wife has become highly awkward for the ruler of Dubai.

Princess Haya, who is the 45-year-old Oxford University-educated daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, fled Dubai for London with her two children last year.

Multiple media reports suggested that her decision to leave the UAE was prompted by revelations she had discovered in the case of Sheikha Latifa, Sheikh Mohammed's daughter with another wife who was seized off the Indian coast in 2018 as she attempted to escape Dubai.

Sheikha Latifa - who in a video revealed that her elder sister Shamsa, too, had attempted to escape the allegedly strict and brutal control of her father - has only been seen publicly once since her failed March 2018 bid for freedom.

Following several appeals by human rights groups to reveal Latifa's condition and whereabouts, former UN human rights chief Mary Robinson visited her in a much-publicised trip to Dubai reportedly arranged by Princess Haya.

However, Robinson was roundly criticised for repeating the official Emirati line that Latifa was "troubled" and in care of her family, with rights groups questioning her expertise in reaching that conclusion.