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Dubai Sheikh loses appeal to stop publications of UK court rulings

With Secret Ink - London

London’s Court of Appeal ruled on Friday that two judgements in the legal battle between Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, and his estranged wife over the wardship of their two children should be made public.

Sheikh Mohammed mounted a bid on judgements of Andrew McFarlane, president of London’s High Court Family Division, to be stated wrong in law and not be publicised.

The three Court of Appeal judges agreed that McFarlane’s rulings should not be made public in the meantime, saying Mohammed could apply for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, half-sister of Jordan’s King Abdullah, have been involved incustody proceedings in the family division of London’s High Court since May last year. However, they have been conducted in private.

“The unanimous decision of the court is that these appeals should be dismissed,” said Justice Nicholas Underhill, vice-president of the Court of Appeal.

“This means, subject to one important proviso, that both judgements, and the judgement on the question of publication, can be published.”

Mohammed, 70, had appealed against publication of two judgements by McFarlane on “fact-finding” and “assurances and waivers”, after he decided last month that these should be made public.

Princess Haya, 45-year-old daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, and the court-appointed guardian of the children both supported publication, the court heard.

On Wednesday, Underhill said the judgements “raise matters of public interest beyond the particular issue in the wardship proceedings”.

“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 added.

The two parties said in a statement in July that the case did not concern divorce or finances but was limited to their children’s welfare.

The sheikh has applied to the court for the summary return of his children to Dubai. Princess Haya has asked the court to protect one of the children from a forced marriage and to grant a non-molestation order, a type of injunction that protects against harassment or threats.

The wardship proceedings are still ongoing and there will be a “welfare hearing” at the end of next month, Underhill said.

The sheikh, vice-president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, has not attended the court in person, with David Pannick, who successfully represented anti-Brexit campaigners in two high-profile court victories over the government last year, leading his legal team.

British-educated Haya has attended all the hearings accompanied by Fiona Shackleton, the lawyer who represented Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, in his divorce from his late first wife, Princess Diana.

Witnesses in the case have included the British detective who led an investigation into the disappearance of Shamsa, the sheikh’s daughter from another marriage, from Cambridge in 2000, and Tiina Jauhiainen, who says she tried to help her friend Latifa, Shamsa’s younger sister, flee Dubai in 2018.

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