The sixth wife of the ruler of Dubai has emerged at a London court after weeks of hiding to ask for a forced marriage protection order, claiming she fears for her life.
Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein, 45, is the third woman to try to escape the court of her 70-year-old billionaire husband Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum.
The sheikh owns Godolphin horse racing stables and is father to 23 children by different wives. Two of his daughters have tried to flee his court before but failed and were returned to Dubai.
Tuesday marked the end of weeks of speculation over Princess Haya’s dramatic disappearance when she appeared in the High Court for the first day of her legal battle against the sheikh.
She has asked for custody of her children, with whom she brought from the United Arab Emirates, as well as a forced marriage protection order and a non-molestation order.
Sheikh Mohammed, meanwhile, has applied for the return of his children to Dubai, and for the court to impose an order to stop the media from reporting details of the case – a request the judge rejected due to “public interest” in the proceedings.
The media is allowed to report on the case, but with limited details.
Princess Haya initially fled to Germany to seek asylum, but was later found to be living in London in a $A150 million townhouse in Kensington Palace Gardens.
Her apparent wish to stay in the UK is bound to cause trouble for Britain, which has close ties to the UAE.
Born in Jordan, the princess was educated at private schools in the UK, is an Olympic equestrian and the half-sister of the current Jordanian ruler, King Abdullah II.
In 2004 she married Sheikh Mohammed.
He is furious about Princess Haya’s attempt to flee his court, posting an angry poem about being betrayed by an unnamed woman on his Instagram.
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كـــنـــوز يــا مـرحـبا يـا عـريب الـجد مـاحر طـار ولأحـــرار بـأفـعـالها تـــدرك مـطـامـيحها وإذا تـعلت تـسامت فـوق شـمس الـنهار فــــلا تـنـزلـهـا مــــن الـعـلـيا تـلاويـحـها أهـديـتـنا م الـمـعـاني مــن لـجـوم غــزار كــنـوز شــعـر وفـــي يـديـنـك مـفـاتيحها ولـــي عــهـدي وذخــري لـلأمـور الـكـبار مـع إخـوتك وإنـتوالها الـدنيا مصابيحها مــن بـيـت عـالـي مـقامه مـايجيه الـعثار مــكـتـوم ونــهـيـان جــدانـك رجـاجـيـحها أنــــا حـلـبـت الـلـيـالي حـلـوهـا والــمـرار وآعـــرف تـصـريـحها وآعـــرف تـلـميحها ولا غــتـرنـي مـخـبـا ولا مـنـعـني جـــدار والأرض الـصـعيبه أذلـلها مـتى آطـيحها والشجره اللي بداها م الخريف إصفرار هـــي ســنـة والــوقـت والأيــام بـتـزيحها مـتـعود آعـسـف وآذلــل صـعـاب الـمـهار يـالـين تـهـدا وتـسـكن بـالـغصب ريـحـها عـندي لـكل وقـت نـاسه وإنـتقيت الخيار هــذا أنــا وخـيـل تـفـكيري فــلا آريـحها
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The princess is believed to have run away after discovering disturbing details about the recent failed escape plan of one of the sheikh’s daughters, Sheikha Latifa.
Sheikha Latifa fled the UAE by sea with the help of a Frenchman, but was intercepted by armed men off the coast of India. She was then returned to Dubai in a move that human rights advocates say was an abduction against her will.
At the time, Princess Haya defended Dubai’s reputation, claiming that Sheikha Latifa had been “vulnerable to exploitation” and was “now safe in Dubai”.
Later, Princess Haya reportedly found out new information relating to the case and faced increasing pressure from her husband’s extended family.
In July 2000, another daughter – Sheikha Shamsa Al Maktoum, then 19 – escaped from the family’s Surrey home by driving a Land Rover to the edge of the estate, ditching the car and slipping through a fence on foot.
It is believed she spent a year of freedom in Britain before she was found in Cambridge and returned to Dubai.