Interviewed by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
As the controversy centering the divorce battle between Prime Minister of UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his sixth wife Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein is getting more and more coverage in the international media, legal experts like Radha Stirling thinks, the divorce case is most unlikely to be settled in the court. She believes the matter would be ultimately resolved outside the court.
Radha Stirling, who has been active in fighting for Sheikha Latifa Bint Maktoum as well as other detainees in the United Arab Emirate has accorded an exclusive interview to Blitz where she had discussed the matter and has given her expert opinion on various points including the final fate of this divorce battle. Here are the excerpts:
Q: Thank you very much, Radha for agreeing to this exclusive interview. As Hervé Jaubert told me that you were the only person he had contacted from the American flag carrier yacht when Indian and UAE naval vessels were approaching it to “snatch” Princess Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum. Will you please narrate us exactly what Hervé Jaubert had told you and what was your immediate reaction and if you had taken any measures to ensure at least those people were not killed?
A: Hervé and Latifa both communicated with me from Nostromo when they were near the coastline of Goa. They were planning to disembark in India either that day or early in the morning. It was on this day that I received a call from Latifa where she said “Radha, I don’t know what’s happening. There are men outside. I hear gunshots, please help me”. I asked her to stay where she was and record videos and voice messages to send to me but though she had tried to send, all communications were cut off. I texted her phone however and said that if I did not hear from her quickly, I would be notifying the authorities and the media. If they had her phone, I wanted them to know that people in the outside world were watching them right at that moment.
At this time, I notified the relevant authorities including the Indian Coast Guard, the British police, the US Coast Guard, and the UAE authorities themselves and worked with media to get the story published as soon as possible. I investigated all of Latifa and Herve’s contacts which led me to a lawyer in the US who Latifa had been in touch with. I was able to speak with her and she provided me with Latifa’s video testimony, which I released as soon as it was received. I hoped this would provide all onboard Nostromo who had been abducted, with a form of protection. Hervé later told me that when the story was published, the authorities changed their tact entirely. They were no longer going to “chop him into little pieces” as they had originally told him when he was brought to the UAE.
Q: According to Hervé Jaubert, the US flag carrier yacht in the deep sea was actually the territory of the United States of America, and he thinks, the “rescue” of Sheikha Latifa from this vessel by the Indian-UAE joint force was a clear violation of international maritime law and was an attempt challenging the sovereignty of the US. What is your opinion on this?
A: Latifa had previously attempted to escape the UAE before and had made it very clear to all family members that she was on the yacht of her own volition. She even posted on Instagram that she had left and the reasons for her leaving. There is no true justification for the attack on Nostromo. Latifa was an adult woman, choosing freedom over captivity and she was in international waters. Her life was not in danger and the UAE was fully aware of this. Therefore, a militarized attack, without communication attempts, on a yacht at sea is in contravention of international law. Following the raid, Latifa shouted and begged for asylum and this means it was absolutely clear that she should not have been forcibly removed from that yacht. At that point, they had not even an ounce of justification to continue with their attack, even if they believed it was for good reason in the first place. Like Khashoggi, if the West does not address this lawlessness, people’s lives will continue to be at risk even on their own soil.
Q: On 24 December 2018, Mary Therese Winifred Robinson, former President of Ireland and former Ambassador for the United Nations, announced that she had met with Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum in the company of Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, the fleeing wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. In her statement and interviews, Mary Robinson claimed that Sheikha Latifa was a “troubled” individual and was in the loving care of her family.
You already have criticized Ms. Robinson’s statements stating it to being too similar to Dubai’s official accounts of the story.
In your opinion, why did Mary Therese Winifred Robinson make this statement?
A: It is unusual that someone with Mary’s experience and position would make an assessment after a brief meeting that would not render her able to determine Latifa’s state. It seems Mary was helping her friend Haya and did not consider the potential ramifications. Had the world been appeased by Mary’s “assessment”, the United Nations may have discontinued their investigations, which is totally unacceptable given the grave nature of Latifa’s allegations against her father.
Q: According to information, you founded ‘Detained in Dubai’ in 2008, a civil and criminal justice organization after your colleague, Cat Le-Huey, was imprisoned in Dubai.
You have led the campaign to facilitate the media coverage on Cat Le-Huey’s case, led to receiving consistent requests from other people in need of help. It was then that you realized Le-Huey’s case was not isolated and that there was a need for an organization to assist victims of injustice.
You also campaign for changes to the legal system of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to improve its process of law and founded Detained Abroad in 2010 to campaign for reforms in the wider Middle East.
You state your goal is to directly impact the development of international judicial systems and has widened her focus beyond the UAE to cover other Middle Eastern countries you have worked closely with Senators and Ministers of Parliament; your work with the Australian Parliament ensured provisions to safeguard citizens against human rights violations were included in their extradition treaty with the UAE.
Why you have not included countries like Iran and Turkey, in particular, where people are regularly fallen victims of state-patronized forced disappearances. Moreover, you do not seem to be much vocal on similar acts taking place in Qatar. Is that because you just want to put the United Arab Emirates under international pressure and grant bailout to countries like Iran, Turkey, and Qatar?
A: Our organization has dealt with a variety of issues in a variety of countries. The organization has expanded organically and usually in response to those who have requested our assistance. Over 90% of our work is unpublished and indeed we have expanded to assist those facing injustices in the wider gulf including Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi, Oman and yes, Turkey. We also assist in extraditions and Interpol notices that stem from countries in the Gulf region, but also Turkey, Egypt, Korea, Russia, and even Venezuela.
Q: Please share with our readers what had happened to your friend Cat Le-Huey was detained in the United Arab Emirates and what experience he carried from there.
A: Cat Le-Huy was arrested for “specs of dust” at the bottom of his bag. He was later charged with carrying 0.005g of hashish in the bottom of his bag, but those were the same test results that returned for all other people detained at the facility. It became clear that the system was being abused by police and prosecutors who were at the time, given bonuses for arrests and convictions. Cat’s case was the first to highlight abuses of the legal process in Dubai and attract the media spotlight. He was released after seven weeks in detention but had opened the floodgates to analyzing a country that had previously been able to blatantly get away with grave injustices.
Q: You have publicly campaigned for the release of people detained in the UAE, notably Jamie Harron, Ellie Holman, Billy Barclay, Johnson George, Richard Lau, Matthew Hedges, David Haigh, Matt Joyce, and Marcus Lee, Safi Qurashi, Scott Richards, Conrad Cliteroe, Gary Cooper and Farzan Atharii.
There are controversies centering David Haigh.
According to our own archived information, David Haigh was arrested in May 2014 in Dubai. Though he claimed to have been “lured to Dubai” under false pretenses by Gulf Finance House (GFH) and their lawyers Gibson Dunn and Peter Gray, the Dubai Police accused David Haigh of fraud and embezzlement of AED 23.7 million from his former employers. The irregularities were allegedly discovered during a routine internal audit.
In August 2015 David Haigh was convicted of “breach of trust” and received a two-year jail sentence.
On the day of Haigh’s release, GFH filed a criminal complaint stating that David Haigh had abused them on Twitter while in jail. Haigh was acquitted of this charge in March 2016 and had returned to the United Kingdom a few days later and on his return, Haigh gave series of television and press interviews setting out the “treatment, torture, abuse and unfair trials” he suffered.
In July 2018, Justice Sir Jeremy Cooke upheld a judgment in Dubai International Finance Center Courts that David Haigh had forged invoices and fraudulently directed funds. He was ordered to pay nearly £3.8 million plus costs, and his counterclaims were dismissed.
At a later stage, David Haigh established Du Justice, a charity to provide funds to those in Dubai jails that cannot afford legal representation or food. Du Justice has since been merged with the David Haigh Foundation.
According to Hervé Jaubert, David Haigh is a “scammer” who has been selling the stories of sufferings of people in UAE prisons and making money.
Would you please tell us what you think about David Haigh? Is he a fraud – a con-artist and a scammer?
A: No comment.
Q: In November 2017, The Metropolitan Police War Crimes Unit (the Scotland Yard) had confirmed that it had received an allegation of “torture of a British national in Dubai”, UAE between May 2014 and April 2016. The Scotland Yard began investigations into allegations made by David Haigh and others relating to accusations of torture, rape, and abuse of prisoners in UAE jails. But till date, there is no further information on the fate of Scotland Yard investigation. What is your speculation on it?
A: No comment.
Q: In December 2018, Helene Jaubert, wife of Hervé Jaubert told American newspaper The Daily Beast that Hervé and you [Radha Stirling] had been in contact with Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed Al Maktoum for five years and “invented” the entire disappearance scheme. According to Helene, “The whole plan was for Hervé [Hervé Jaubert] to help her [Latifa] escape and once he got her out the daughter was going to get to the dad and say I want US$3 million or else I’ll tell all to the media”. According to Helene, “It was a con. It’s a corrupt scheme gone haywire”.
What is your comment on this and in your opinion, what prompted Helene Jaubert in making such a statement?
A: In fact, Helene subsequently denied having made the statements that were printed in that article, and the publication did not choose to honor her request to have the interview removed.
Q: Radha, you have attended Mater Christi College, Yarra Valley Anglican School, Box Hill TAFE, and Bond University Law School in Queensland, Australia. You became active in the Middle Eastern region when your colleague and friend Cat Le-Huy was detained in Dubai. You were a Partner of Dubai and Cairo based law firm Nasser Hashem and Partners but left the firm after five years. Then you opened a Civil & Criminal Justice Law Company, Stirling & Partners, specializing in extradition and Interpol to prevent Interpol Abuse. You have provided expert witness testimony in UAE extradition cases and civil litigation suits as a “country expert”.
In 2017, you and Barrister Ben Cooper of Doughty Street Chambers urged the British Irish Commercial Bar Association (BICBA) to cancel an upcoming conference with Dubai’s with the Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) following allegations of corruption and malpractice. BICBA later canceled their event.
With so many credentials and experiences, what is your prophecy about the outcome of the hearing into Haya-Maktoum divorce case in the British High Court on July 30, 2019? As a legal expert, what fate you are seeing of this case?
A: I expect the hearings to be fair to both sides, with privacy upheld as much as possible in such an environment of media frenzy. It would be easy to assume that political pressures will determine the outcome, but I doubt that will be the case. Divorces and custody battles are intensely personal, even when they involve celebrities and people with extraordinary power and position. I would anticipate that this matter will not ultimately be left to the arbitration of the courts, but that in all likelihood it will be settled between Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya themselves out of court. I would actually think that any political pressure that might be brought to bear on the case will probably push for such a resolution, as it is extremely unusual and potentially problematic for the UK court to have to decide the custody of children belonging to the royal family of another country.
Q: With formidable knowledge on the Middle Eastern affairs, especially UAE, what is your assumption of the fate of Sheikha Shamsa and Latifa?
A: It is unlikely that Sheikh Mohammed offers them any form of freedom at this time. In fact, since Latifa’s attempted escape and now Haya’s, his children are likely to be under increased surveillance and lockdown. However, I hope that with increasing pressure on the realm, he may afford them some freedoms in the future or alternatively, the new ruler of Dubai will.
Sheikh Mohammed was once an ambassador of Dubai, promoting modern values in the eyes of the West. Now, he appears to be single-handedly severely damaging the reputation of the UAE and plunging the country back to the likeness of Saudi.
Q: While some people are talking about repression of women as well mistreatment of females within the Middle Eastern countries, including UAE, why they are not condemning Iran’s notorious treatment of women? Is that because people are enthusiastically trying to demonize the United Arab Emirates and the Middle Eastern countries with the motive of indirectly helping Iran in taking revenge on them?
A: Iran has been widely condemned by the UK, especially in the wake of their ongoing detention and ill-treatment of a British woman and cancer victim. The difference is that the UAE in particular markets itself acts as a modern and Western tourism and investment destination, whereas Iran does not portray itself in that same manner. If Iran suddenly glossed its appearance, put up 7-star hotels and attracted the same tourism, they too, would be more under the spotlight.
Q: Regarding the Sheikha Latifa case, although the global media are projecting Finnish lady Tiina Jauhiainen Johanna as someone who had helped the Dubai princess in fleeing and drove her up to Oman border, we have received specific evidence about Tiina Jauhiainen Johanna extracting a large sum of cash and gifts from Sheikh Latifa. Tiina even has purchased an apartment in Spain with Latifa’s money.
Though we contacted Tiina Jauhiainen Johanna for getting her comment on these allegations, she had declined, which definitely gives credence to the above allegation. What is your personal opinion about Tiina Jauhiainen Johanna? Do you think, she too was an opportunist who wanted to help Sheikha Latifa to flee and then subsequently would use her in extracting a huge amount of money from the Dubai ruler?
A: Both Tiina and Hervé were hired by Latifa to assist her to escape an oppressive and abusive situation and risked their lives to do so. This chain of events was started when Hervé escaped himself, wrote his book and shared his experience which, in turn, inspired people like Latifa to find their own way to freedom. Latifa contacted Hervé around seven years ago, knowing that he was probably one of the only people she could trust to not sell her out to her father.
Latifa’s escape, although she was seized, has now inspired many others to seek freedom, including Sheikh Mohammed’s own wife, Princess Haya. These acts are selfless and heroic and have changed and will continue to change things in the Gulf region forever.
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