Saudi-French diplomatic row over little princess

Jewish mother wins custody battle with Saudi prince; claims he 'kidnapped their daughter and kept her in his palace for three years'
By Chris Parsons

A Jewish mother has won custody of her daughter from a Saudi prince after he allegedly kidnapped her when their relationship turned sour. Prince Sattam al-Saud, who had kept his daughter Aya in a Riyadh palace for three-and-a-half years, has been ordered to hand over custody of the girl to her French mother Candice Cohen-Ahnine.

French mother Candice Cohen-Ahnine has won custody of her daughter Aya after her father, Prince Sattam al-Saud, was ordered to hand her over Prince Sattam al-Saud kept his daughter in a Riyadh palace for three-and-a-half years

The prince, from the Saudi's founding royal family, separated from Miss Cohen-Ahnine in 2006 after 14 years and allegedly only allowed her fleeting meetings with her now 10-year-old daughter. He had kept her in a Riyadh palace despite efforts from the French foreign ministry and President Nicolas Sarkozy to solve the problem.

As well as giving up custody, the prince has also been told to pay child support payments of 10,000 Euros (£8,300) per month. The ruling from Paris criminal court does not appear to have had the desired effect on the Saudi prince.

After the hearing, he is reported to have told Nouvel Observateur magazine: 'If need be, I'll go like [Osama] bin Laden and hide in the mountains with Aya.' Miss Cohen-Ahnine met the Saudi prince 14 years ago at Browns nightclub in London, and their daughter was born in November 2001, according to the Daily Telegraph.

In 2006, Sattam al-Saud allegedly declared that he was obliged to marry a cousin, and when Miss Cohen-Ahnine refused to be his second wife the pair went their separate ways. Miss Cohen-Ahnine claimed that during a visit to Saudi in 2008 she only had brief access to her daughter.

In happier times: The couple met 14 years ago at Browns nightclub in London

She went on to express worry about Aya's upbringing when she came across Facebook images of her daughter wearing a niqab and playing with firearms.

Her concerns saw her write a book in October, called Give My Daughter Back.

The prince, who now faces an international arrest warrant for ignoring the custody terms, denied he ever 'kidnapped' his own daughter.

He told the Daily Telegraph: 'She was free to come and go as she pleased.'

Sattam al-Saud said he would send lawyers to France to challenge the court ruling. He added: 'France hasn't got a right to take her back. She is a Saudi citizen and a princess.

'They cannot oblige a princess to leave this country.'

© Daily Mail, London

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