Lawyer ready to visit Saudi Arabia to interview 'imprisoned' daughter
A British lawyer is prepared to travel to Saudi Arabia for a face-to-face meeting with a young woman who claimed she was being imprisoned by her father.
The move has been given the backing of a High Court judge in London in the case of 21-year-old Amina Al-Jeffery, who grew up in Swansea.
Mr Justice Holman said he believed that a visit by Miss Al-Jeffery's solicitor Anne-Marie Hutchinson "is the only way to get to the bottom of this matter".
Miss Al-Jeffery, who has dual British and Saudi Arabian nationality, had complained that her father locked her up in his flat in Jeddah because she had "kissed a guy".
She had described herself as being ''locked in a cage''. Her father, Saudi academic Mohammed Al-Jeffery, disputed her allegations and said he was trying to protect her.
On August 3 Mr Justice Holman said her father had to "permit and facilitate" his daughter's return to England or Wales by September 11.
She has not returned and a further hearing was held before the judge on Tuesday when he was given an update on the current situation.
He was told that Miss Hutchinson, a partner at London law firm Dawson Cornwell, was prepared to make the trip to Saudi Arabia to talk to Miss Al-Jeffery at a private meeting about her wishes, and to ensure "as best she can that any decisions taken by Amina are informed".
The judge said Miss Hutchinson was concerned, on the basis of all of the material in her possession, that Miss Al-Jeffery's position appeared to be "equivocal", and the solicitor "wishes to make further inquiries".
The judge said there had been a "significant development" in the case on September 12 when Miss Hutchinson and other colleagues at her firm "received an email which comes from what is known to be the email address of Amina".
He added that it "does not follow of course that Amina sent the email". A document was attached described as "Amina's statement" to be submitted to the court.
The document stated that she and her father had been "building our trust", that she wishes to stay in Saudi Arabia to "work on my relationship with my father and get my life back on track", and that she wants to " withdraw my charges and end this case".
Mr Justice Holman said that on the "face of it" the language of the statement sent from her email was "clear and unequivocal".
But the view of her lawyers, taking into account other material, was that her position appeared to them to be "equivocal".
The judge added: "It seems to me in this situation that there is only one efficient, effective and reliable way for all of us, and ultimately myself - this court - to get to the truth of the matter, and that is for Miss Hutchinson to be enabled to have a direct face-to-face meeting with Amina with no-one else present in the room."
The judge said it would be "wrong of this court simply to give up on Amina at this stage and bring these proceedings to an end".
It was hoped that by the time of the next hearing in late October there could be "clarity in this case".
He said he was "immensely grateful" to Miss Hutchinson for her "personal preparedness" to make the journey to Saudi Arabia.
The judge said that Miss Al-Jeffery's father must "permit and facilitate" his daughter's attendance at the meeting.