Father ‘who kept British daughter in cage in Saudi Arabia for four years’ loses legal bid to gag media

‘I happen to think that the case raises issues that require to be ventilated in public,’ judge says

Brian Farmer
Friday 29 July 2016 16:36
Amina Al-Jeffery left Swansea and moved to Saudi Arabia at her father's insistence four years ago
Amina Al-Jeffery left Swansea and moved to Saudi Arabia at her father's insistence four years ago

An academic at the centre of family court litigation after being accused of imprisoning his 21-year-old daughter at their home in Saudi Arabia has failed in a bid to limit reporting of the case.

Amina Al-Jeffery – who grew up in Swansea and has dual British and Saudi Arabian nationality – says her father, Mohammed Al-Jeffery, locks her up because she “kissed a guy”.

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 coming to her aid.

The judge has analysed the case at a public hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

A hearing ended late on Thursday, lawyers are due to file final documentation on Monday and Mr Justice Holman is scheduled to deliver a ruling on Wednesday.

Mr Justice Holman has said that there are reasons to be very concerned about Miss Al-Jeffery's welfare – and he has rejected an application from Mr Al-Jeffery for restrictions to be placed on what journalists can report.

The judge has been told that Miss Al-Jeffery left Swansea and moved to Saudi Arabia at her father's insistence four years ago.

He has heard that Miss Al-Jeffery's mother and siblings are back in South Wales.

Neither Miss Al-Jeffery nor her father, who is in his 60s, have been at the court hearing in London.

Barristers Henry Setright QC and Michael Gration represented Miss Al-Jeffery have outlined concerns.

Barrister Marcus Scott-Manderson QC represented Mr Al-Jeffery.

Mr Scott-Manderson told Mr Justice Holman at the end of proceedings on Thursday that Mr Al-Jeffery wanted “reporting restrictions”.

But Mr Justice Holman said: “No. Afraid not.”

He said Mr Al-Jeffery had not warned media organisations of his application to limit journalists' human right to free speech – a right enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

And he said there were good reasons for staging the hearing in public – even though it was in a family court – and allowing journalists to report freely.

Mr Justice Holman said the case involved the welfare of an adult who was a British citizen.

He said he had heard evidence in public and would deliver a ruling in public.

“I happen to think that the case raises issues that require to be ventilated in public,” said the judge.

“This is not just tittle-tattle stuff. There are very serious issues here.”

He added: “I dare say the publicity is extremely disagreeable to the father.”

Mr Justice Holman has described the case as very serious and said Mr Al-Jeffery is not seeing the situation through the “right perspective”.

The judge has said it is possible that Miss Al-Jeffery is being manipulative but he added that there is a “degree of admission” from her father.

He said Mr Al-Jeffery had admitted locking his daughter in his flat when he went out.

The court had heard he had kept her in a cage for four years.

Mr Al-Jeffery also previously admitted having “steel latticework” over the windows so Miss Al-Jeffery could not shout out.

The judge also heard that Miss Al-Jeffery had been arrested for kissing and hugging an American student on a Saudi university campus.

Mr Scott-Manderson said Mr Al-Jeffery had “required” his daughter to go to South Africa when she was 16 because he was concerned about the life she led in South Wales.

“His concern is that she is going to be at risk (in Britain),” Mr Scott-Manderson told the judge.

“He is the head of a family that has its own moral and cultural standards.”

Mr Scott-Manderson reported that Mr Al-Jeffery had said: “I will not allow Amina to go back to a toxic lifestyle.”

The judge said Miss Al-Jeffery had grown up in South Wales and might prefer a Western lifestyle.

“She may indeed be expressing a preference to the more liberal lifestyle she knows goes on in this country,” he said.

“(Her father) is enforcing his point of view by locking her up.”

He added: “The central issue for me is, is she able to appeal to this country, of which she is a citizen, and say ‘Help me’?”

Mr Justice Holman said he might have the power to order Mr Al-Jeffery to facilitate his daughter's return to the UK – but might have difficulty enforcing such an order.

:: In June, when analysing another family court case, Mr Justice Holman said press freedom was the “most fundamental right” in a democratic society.

He questioned whether people understood the “gravity” of court orders which limited what journalists could report.

The judge told lawyers: “The most fundamental right in a democratic society is the freedom of the press. I don't think people understand the gravity of a reporting restriction order.”

Mr Justice Holman said the public could read “about anything and everything” in newspapers.

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