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Dubai royals set for custody battle in British court

Jordanian Princess Haya bint Al-Hussein and her husband, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (R), walk to the parade ring on Ladies Day, the third day of horse racing at Royal Ascot in southern England on 17 June 2010. [REUTERS]
Princess Haya bint Al-Hussein and her husband, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (R) on 17 June 2010. [REUTERS]

Dubai's Princess Haya Bint Al-Hussein and her husband Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, are set to face each other in a British court over the custody and welfare of their two children. A preliminary hearing in the family division of London's High Court is expected to start today.

The hearing comes after Princess Haya, a half-sister of King Abdullah II of Jordan, fled from Dubai with her two children, seven-year-old Zayed and 11-year-old Al Jalila. It was reported initially that the Princess had left her husband to head for Germany, but she eventually went into hiding to "start her new life" in the British capital.

The high-profile case is said to be a source of shame for Al-Maktoum after his personal life was thrust into the public domain. Discussions over divorce and finance are not expected to take place.

Reports: Dubai princess left Crown Prince husband, fled UAE

Quoting people close to the leadership in Dubai, the Financial Times shed light on the source of the dispute between Al-Maktoum and Princess Haya, who is his sixth wife. One issue behind the discord is said to be related to the case of his daughter, Sheikha Latifa. The 33-year-old has also fled the UAE, citing domestic abuse and restrictions.

Two of the most successful family lawyers in Britain have been engaged to fight the case: Fiona Shackleton, representing Princess Haya, handled Britain's Prince Andrew's split from Sarah Ferguson in 1992.

Al-Maktoum will be represented by Lady Helen Ward, a partner at Stewarts Law. She too has experience dealing with high profile divorce cases; her clients have included film director Guy Ritchie, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One tycoon.

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