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Snatched children living in Libya

A Libyan Muslim took his two children from their home in Birmingham to Libya after telling his estranged wife that the UK was "too western", lawyers say.

Jamal Dgham, 35, is unlawfully keeping daughter Aisha, four, and son Zakaria, who will be two in February, in Libya, say solicitors representing the children's mother, Priscilla Micalleff, 30.

Lawyers say the children - thought to be in the Bin Ashur area of Tripoli at the home of Mr Dgham's mother - are being unlawfully retained in breach of a court order made in England.

They said Mr Dgham had texted Miss Micalleff saying: "u r not gona hear or c the kids anymore".

A High Court judge has given permission for the detail of the case to be published - following private hearings in the Family Division of the High Court - in the hope that publicity will help secure the children's return to England.

Solicitor Pam Sanghera, who represents Miss Micalleff, gave details in a statement released with the permission of Mr Justice Wood.

Mrs Sanghera, who works for Birmingham law firm The Firm Solicitors, said Mr Dgham had vanished with the children in late September after accepting that his marriage was over.

"The father is a practising Muslim," said Mrs Sanghera. "He informed the mother that he wants his children to be raised as devout Muslims. He previously moved to the UK believing there to be more mosques and believing the religion to be widely recognised and practised in the UK.

"He slowly changed his view and believed the UK to be too western. He did not want his children to be influenced against being devout Muslims."

Mrs Sanghera said Miss Micalleff was Maltese and had met Mr Dgham in Malta before marrying in 2001. They had originally moved to the UK in 2008 - gone back to Malta - then returned to the UK in 2010. Aisha was Maltese and Zakaria British.

She said the couple's relationship had begun to deteriorate and Mr Dgham vanished with the children in September.

Mr Dgham had texted to say he was in Libya and Miss Micalleff was "quite confident" that he was living with the children at his mother's home.

Mrs Sanghera said Miss Micalleff had contacted police and taken civil legal action - and she said in October a judge had ordered Mr Dgham to return the children.

She said Mr Dgham had subsequently texted Miss Micalleff saying: "u r not gona hear or c the kids anymore and u wont know where they r."

"It is an awful time for this poor mother," added Mrs Sanghera. "Her children were taken to Libya whilst she believed them to be having a McDonald's with their father.

"She trusted the father. The father torments her by not returning her children to her; no mother deserves this.

"These very young children are powerless; separated from their main carer and are in a country unknown to them. The mother fears for their safety."

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