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Child bride ordered back to Britain



in Kahramanmaras

A High Court judge yesterday ordered the return to Britain of 13-year- old bride Sarah Cook as the girl's Turkish husband was remanded in custody on a charge of statutory rape.

Sarah's mother, Jackie, 37, flew to Turkey last night, admitting that she may have been wrong to consent to the illegal marriage and adding: "All I want to do now is get my daughter home." She was expected in Kahramanmaras late last night.

Sir Stephen Brown, President of the Family Division of the High Court, made Sarah a ward of court at the request of Essex County Council's social services department. After a 30-minute hearing, he ordered her to be returned to the court's jurisdiction "forthwith" and demanded that any passport on which she travels home should be surrendered.

Sir Stephen's wide-ranging order also forbade Mrs Cook and her husband, Adrian, 42, from taking Sarah out of the country again and from talking about her case to the press. They are already understood to have earned more than pounds 20,000 from selling her story to the Sun.

The schoolgirl from Braintree, Essex, was besieged by journalists yesterday in the cramped apartment she shared with her 18-year-old husband, Musa Komeagae - whom she married in an unofficial ceremony two weeks ago - and his parents in Kahramanmaras.

Meanwhile, her husband was brought before a Turkish court on charges of repeated statutory rape and suspected abduction of a minor and was remanded in custody for 30 days. His lawyers argued that the marriage took place with the consent of both sets of parents, although the minimum age for any marriage in Turkey - and then only with the special dispensation of a judge - is 14.

Musa's father said: "The two of them love each other madly. Because they insisted, the two families agreed. We love Sarah as our daughter. The English should not be worried. Love knows no law or boundary."

The English ruling is not binding in Turkey but there were indications last night that the authorities would recognise it. Before leaving for the airport, Mrs Cook said: "Looking back, perhaps letting Sarah get married was the wrong thing to do, but everyone makes mistakes."

Earlier in the day, however, Sarah had told the Sun: "If they keep Musa in jail, I will kill myself, because I can't live without him."

Musa's lawyer, Selim Sumen, also has an interest in her staying. He said: "Musa's only hope of getting out of prison is if they can apply to a court for special permission to marry when she is 14."

A Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said Sarah's visa was valid for a further three months. "At this stage, we could only forcibly remove her from Turkey at the request of her parents."

Leading article, page 14