Dubai ruler, princess in London court over welfare of kids

The ruler of Dubai and one of his wives began a court battle in London on Tuesday over their children's welfare.

She asked for wardship of the children during the preliminary hearing.

It was not immediately clear whether the protection order applied to her or the children.

The clash between Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya is the latest sign of trouble in Dubai's ruling family. They can be applied for by the person to be protected by the order, or for someone else by a relevant third party or another person with the court's permission to do so.

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

Princess Haya attended the court hearing in London.

After a previous hearing held in private in London, the couple issued a statement relating to the nature of the case.

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The UAE foreign ministry said in December that Sheikha Latifa was home and living with her family, denying as "false" media reports citing a widely circulated self-recorded video by Latifa accusing the family of abusing and restricting her.

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.

Before the breakdown of their marriage, Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya had been described as a ideal couple and often appeared together at global social events. She married Sheikh Mohammed in 2004 and is his sixth wife. The Dubai ruler was not in court.

Sheikh Mohammed, who turned 70 earlier this month, is also the founder of the successful Godolphin horse racing stable and last month received a trophy from Queen Elizabeth II after one of his horses won a race at Royal Ascot.

The princess was educated at private schools in the United Kingdom and studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University.

Emirati authorities rubbished allegations over Princess Latifa's treatment and abduction as fiction, saying she was "vulnerable to exploitation" and had been kidnapped.

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.

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