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What we have learnt from the Dubai ruler's custody battle

Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 10 December 2019 [FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images]
Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 10 December 2019 [FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images]

London's High Court has ruled that Dubai's leader Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum ordered the hacking of the phones of his ex-wife and those close to her as part of a bitter custody battle over their children.

Here is a timeline of the main events connected with the case, based on statements and findings made in the English courts.

June 2000: Sheikha Shamsa, daughter of Mohammed and his Algerian wife Huriah Ahmed Al M'aash, flees from her family while on holiday in England. Two months later she is abducted from the streets of Cambridge and taken back to Dubai.

2004: Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai and vice president of the United Arab Emirates, marries Princess Haya Bint Al-Hussein, half-sister of Jordanian King Abdullah II. They go on to have two children.

4 March 2018: Sheikha Latifa, Shamsa's younger sister who tried to run away from her family in 2002, attempts to escape again. Armed Indian coast guards board the boat she was on 20 miles off the coast of India in international waters. Those on board are taken to Dubai.

15 April 2019: Haya, who had begun an affair with her British bodyguard at some stage in 2017 or 2018, flees Dubai with her two children, having become fearful for her life. She later discovers that Mohammed had divorced her under Sharia Law on 7 February, the 20th anniversary of the death of her father, King Hussein.

14 May 2019: Mohammed begins legal action at the High Court in London seeking to have the children returned to Dubai.

July 2019: Mohammed and Haya issue a statement saying the case did not concern divorce or finances but was limited to their children's welfare. The court sets 11 November as the date of the start of the hearings in the case.

March 2020: After a series of hearings held in private, reporting restrictions are lifted to reveal that senior judge Andrew McFarlane had ruled that he accepted as proved a series of allegations made by Haya. These included that Mohammed was responsible for the abductions of Shamsa and Latifa, and they remained deprived of their liberty. The judge also concluded the sheikh had subjected his ex-wife to a campaign of intimidation which put her in fear of her life.

July 2020: Agents working for Mohammed exploit a vulnerability in Apple's iPhone to use the Pegasus software made by Israel's NSO Group to hack the phones of Haya, her British lawyers Fiona Shackleton and Nick Manners, her personal assistant and two of her security team.

5 Aug 2020: Shackleton is notified by another lawyer that their phones might have been hacked after a cyber expert monitoring the use of Pegasus becomes aware of the action.

The same day, Shackleton receives an urgent call from human rights lawyer Cherie Blair, an adviser to the NSO and wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, warning her that it was suspected that her phone had been hacked. The firm ends its contract with the UAE as a result of the hack.

7 Sept 2020: Lawyers for Haya tell the High Court about the hacking.

5 May 2021: Judge McFarlane rules that it was "more probable than not" the sheikh was responsible for the hacking.

June 2021: A statement issued by Latifa through lawyers says she is now free to travel, after pictures of her abroad and in a shopping mall in Dubai are published on social media. Two months later, a campaign group which had been working to secure her release from Dubai said it was ending its work.

READ: Women at risk of blackmail as a result of the use of Israel spyware

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