Defiant child bride faces court showdown

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The Independent Online
The fate of child bride Sarah Cook could be decided today as lawyers in Britain and Turkey seek a solution after the failure of diplomatic attempts to persuade her back to Britain.

Thirteen-year-old Sarah, from Braintree, Essex, is refusing to budge and in a public show of defiance yesterday, kissed the Islamic holy book the Koran to reiterate her love for her adopted country.

She had two weekend meetings with her husband, 18-year-old unemployed waiter Musa Komeagac, in the prison in Kahranmanmaras in south-eastern Turkey, where he is on remand for marrying her in a religious ceremony in the town three weeks ago.

Her mother Jackie Cook, 37, and senior British diplomats had tried to get her to leave Turkey after the High Court in London made her a ward of court last Wednesday.

Today , Sir Stephen Brown, president of the Family Division, will sit to hear a report from Essex social services and to see if Sarah has returned. He will make a decision after hearing from the Official Solicitor, appointed to look after Sarah's interests. Sarah's father, welder Adrian Cook, 42, may also be called to the court. The judge can make a further order in the case or give the social services another seven weeks to complete a full report.

Any order he makes will not be enforceable in Turkey and the judge may choose to ask the Foreign Office to make official representations to the Turkish Government or ask the police to make an official approach to their opposite number. The situation is complicated because Sarah is a witness in Musa's case which has been adjourned until 15 February, when he could be sent for trial at a later date.

The local law association will meet in the Maras region today to work out the legal implications of the case, which is unprecedented. Mrs Cook is Sarah's legal guardian in Turkey, but not now in England, where the court has taken over the responsibility.