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Dubai ruler's estranged wife applies for forced marriage protection in UK

In first day of high-profile dispute with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Princess Haya also appeals for non-molestation order
Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein of Jordan leaves the High Court in London on Tuesday (AFP)
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London

The dramatic court battle between the ruler of Dubai and his estranged wife, a Jordanian princess, over their children’s custody began on Tuesday with the application for a forced marriage protection order.

The application on behalf of one of her children, made by Princess Haya in the High Court in London on Tuesday, was accompanied by applications of wardship and a non-molestation order.

Wardship would see the court be responsible for any major decisions regarding the children.

The legal dispute comes weeks after Princess Haya bint Hussein, the half-sister of Jordan's King Abdullah II, reportedly fled Dubai for Germany, eventually settling in London. 

Sources told British media that she fled following revelations over the disappearance last year of Sheikha Latifa, one of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum's daughters with another wife.

Princess Haya's petitions came in response to one by her husband seeking an order for the summary return of their children to Dubai.

Princess Haya, 45, who is the Oxford University-educated daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, appeared in court alongside her legal team.

Sheikh Mohammed, the 70-year-old prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, was absent from proceedings.

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Forced marriage protection orders can be used to help someone who is already in a forced marriage or who is being coerced into marriage.

According to UK law, that can include physical force, but also emotional pressure, threats or psychological abuse.

Judge Andrew McFarlane, who is overseeing the proceedings, rejected a bid by Sheikh Mohammed's lawyers for certain details to be subject to reporting restrictions.

"There is a public interest in the public understanding, in very broad terms, proceedings that are before the court," he said.

McFarlane earlier decided that only accredited journalists with media based within the jurisdiction of England and Wales were allowed to sit in on the proceedings.

Princess Haya was accompanied by her lawyer Baroness Fiona Shackleton, who represented Britain’s Prince Charles in his high-profile divorce from Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1996.

Sheikh Mohammed is being represented by Helen Ward, who has similarly represented public figures, notably filmmaker Guy Richie in his divorce from pop star Madonna.