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Judge asked to help Briton 'locked up by father in Saudi Arabia'

Published 27/07/2016

The judge is analysing the case at a public hearing in the Family Division of the High Court
The judge is analysing the case at a public hearing in the Family Division of the High Court

A British High Court judge has been asked to come to the aid of a 21-year-old woman who says she has been imprisoned by her father in Saudi Arabia.

Amina Al-Jeffery - who grew up in Swansea and has dual British and Saudi Arabian nationality - has complained that her father, Mohammed Al-Jeffery, locks her up because she "kissed a guy", Mr Justice Holman has heard.

She had spoken of "metal bars" on her bedroom door and of being a "locked-up girl with a shaved head", the judge was told

Mr Al-Jeffery, an academic in his 60s who moved to Saudi Arabia from South Wales about four years ago, disputes his daughter's allegations.

Lawyers representing Miss Al-Jeffery have taken legal action in London in a bid to protect her.

They have asked Mr Justice Holman to look at ways of helping Miss Al-Jeffery.

The judge is analysing the case at a public hearing - in the Family Division of the High Court in London - expected to end later this week.

He said on Wednesday that issues raised were "important and difficult".

Mr Justice Holman said he had to consider whether he had the power to make orders relating to a woman abroad.

The judge said the "right thing" might be to order that she was taken to the British Consulate in Jeddah.

He said if she sought sanctuary, Foreign Office staff would then have to make decisions.

Neither Miss Al-Jeffery nor Mr Al-Jeffery have been at the hearing in London.

Barristers Henry Setright QC and Michael Gration are representing Miss Al-Jeffery and outlining concerns. Marcus Scott-Manderson QC is representing Mr Al-Jeffery.

Mr Setright said a solicitor had found it difficult to take instructions and attempts had been made to allow Miss Al-Jeffery to instruct lawyers via British Consulate staff in Jeddah.

But he said Miss Al-Jeffery had spoken to a member of staff at the British Consulate in Jeddah and her complaints had been outlined in a note of that meeting.

Miss Al-Jeffrey said there had been a "practice" of "locking her in her room".

A younger sister had been told she was an "evil girl". She said a sister had seen her in Saudi Arabia and found "a locked-up girl with a shaved head".

She said her father "locks her up because she kissed a guy".

She also said "metal bars are no longer in her room" but "she is still locked up in the house" and "not allowed to use the phone or internet".

She had spoken of being "prevented from going to the bathroom" and being "forced to urinate in a cup".

Miss Al-Jeffery said her father also hit her.

Mr Setright said Miss Al-Jeffery had left Swansea and moved to Saudi Arabia with her family four years ago. He said her mother and siblings were back in South Wales.

"(She) has been in Saudi Arabia since 2012. There is unchallenged evidence that it was her father that decided that she was taken to Saudi Arabia," he argued in a written document give to Mr Justice Holman.

"She has expressed a wish to return to England but has been prevented from doing so by her father."

He added: "(She) has, on the basis of unchallenged evidence, undergone treatment that extends to the control of her movement by her father (and) her imprisonment by her father in his home...

"The father preventing her from speaking privately to her solicitors except under unworkable conditions."

Mr Setright said Miss Al-Jeffery had also made allegations which her father disputed.

"(She) comments... her treatment has extended to depriving her of food and water, depriving her of toilet facilities, physical assault and control of her ability to marry who she wishes and creating a situation in which she feels compelled to marry as a means of escape."

He said Mr Al-Jeffery's treatment of Miss Al-Jeffery amounted to a breach of her "fundamental human rights".

"(She) is clearly requiring of protection from the father in order to permit her to live her life in the way that she wants," Mr Setright told Mr Justice Holman.

"It is therefore necessary to make an order."

Mr Setright said Mr Al-Jeffery had outlined his thinking in a letter written earlier this year.

"Regarding returning Amina back to the UK," Mr Al-Jeffery had written.

"I am unwilling to do this as I fear she will go back to her old destructive lifestyle."

He added: "As her father, I fear for her health and safety and only want what is best for Amina, so she may focus on her education."

Mr Scott-Manderson said Mr Al-Jeffery disputed claims made against him.

"The father does not accept criticism that has been made of him," said Mr Scott-Manderson. "None of the claims are remotely admitted."

Mr Scott-Manderson urged the judge to proceed with caution when deciding whether to make orders.

He said the Saudi government was paying Mr Al-Jeffery's legal bills - via the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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