Court of Appeal hears battle between Dubai ruler and estranged wife

The ruler of Dubai is appealing against a decision to make two judgments public relating to his legal battle with his estranged wife, the Court of Appeal has announced.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, 70, who is also vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, has applied to the High Court for the summary return of his two children to Dubai.

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, 45, the half-sister of King Abdullah II of Jordan, has applied for the children to be made wards of court, and has also applied for a forced marriage protection order in relation to one of the children and a non-molestation order.

She attended a hearing at the Court of Appeal in London on Wednesday to hear Lord Justice Underhill read a public statement confirming that Sheikh Mohammed is appealing against a decision to publish two judgments made by Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the Family Division.

Dubai Future Champions Festival – Day Two – Newmarket Racecourse
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (centre) founded the successful Godolphin horse racing stable (Tim Goode/PA)

The judge said the two judgments relate to “certain disputed factual issues” and “issues arising out of the special position of (Sheikh Mohammed) as the sovereign and head of government of a foreign state”.

He added that Sheikh Mohammed’s legal team – which is headed by Lord Pannick QC, who acted for Gina Miller in the landmark Supreme Court case over the prorogation of Parliament – will argue that the decision was “wrong in law and that the judgments should not be published, if at all, in advance of the welfare hearing” next month.

Lord Justice Underhill said Sheikh Mohammed’s appeal – which “raises questions both about what is in the best interests of the children and about how to balance that, if necessary, against the right of the press to report matters of public interest” – was opposed by Princess Haya and by a number of media organisations.

After Lord Justice Underhill read out the statement, the court sat “in private”, with members of the public excluded and journalists allowed to remain but not report details of the evidence and arguments.

Sheikh Mohammed, the founder of the successful Godolphin horse racing stable, was not present in court to hear the statement on Wednesday.

Princess Haya, who became Sheikh Mohammed’s sixth wife in 2004, reportedly fled Dubai last year.

Her legal team includes Baroness Fiona Shackleton, who represented the Prince of Wales during his divorce from Diana, Princess of Wales, and Sir Paul McCartney in his divorce from Heather Mills.

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