Jewish mother wins a round in custody battle with Saudi prince

PARIS (JTA) – A Jewish mother from France won the first step in an international custody battle against a Saudi prince, whom she claims has kidnapped her daughter.

A Paris criminal court ruled last month in favor of Candice Cohen-Ahnine’s plea to “get back” her 10-year-old daughter, Haya. Cohen-Ahnine claims Haya has been held captive by the girl’s father, Prince Sattam al-Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family, since September 2008.

Along with having to return the girl to her mother, the prince also was ordered to pay monthly child support of 10,000 euros (more than $13,000).

“It’s a first step in a long journey,” said Cohen-Ahnine’s lawyer, Laurence Tarquiny-Charpentier, speaking to the French media. “Haya must be returned to her mother so that she can live in France, where she has always lived."

Cohen-Ahnine alleges that when she agreed to visit Sattam with her daughter in 2008 after the couple had separated, she was swiftly locked up in a Riyadh palace and separated from her Haya. Accused by authorities of being a Muslim who converted to Judaism — a capital crime in Saudi Arabia — Cohen-Ahnine was able to escape to the French embassy and return to France. But Haya has remained behind and the two now only speak occasionally by phone.

Following the Jan. 12 court ruling, Sattam risks being slapped with an international arrest warrant if he does not return Haya. But according to recent interviews, the Saudi ruler does not intend to cooperate.

“The life of my child is here,” the prince said in an interview with the French magazine Nouvel Observateur. “I remind you that my daughter is a descendant of the royal Saudi family.”

Cohen-Ahnine, 34, met Prince Sattam (as the French media refers to him) in London when she was 18. Despite their differences in religion and nationality, the couple continued their relationship, and Haya was born in 2001. But the couple separated in 2006; the prince allegedly said that he would have to marry a cousin and could only keep Cohen-Ahnine as a mistress.

The French government is involved in attempts to resolve the issue.

Last year, Cohen-Ahnine published a book in French about the ordeal with the literally translated title “Give me back my daughter” (l’Archipel).
 

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