A French Jewish mother has won a custody battle in the French courts, against her child's father, a Saudi Prince. The court ordered Prince Sattam al-Saud to give custody of his daughter Aya to her mother, Candice Cohen-Ahnine. The court found in favour of Ahnine, who alleges that the prince kidnapped their daughter and kept her in a royal palace in the Kingdom.
According to the Telegraph
, diplomatic intervention failed to resolve custody of the child who was born in 2001 when the couple were in a relationship. Following their break-up the prince allowed the mother only limited access to their child, within Saudi Arabia.
The French court ruling leaves Prince al-Saud subject to an international arrest warrant. He was also ordered to pay $10,000 per month in child support. However, the ruling has made no difference to the custody situation as in spite of international law, Saudi sharia law takes precedence in the Kingdom.
International Family Law
states that under Saudi law "A foreign parent cannot take her or his children out of Saudi Arabia if the other parent is a Saudi national even if the foreigner has been granted custody rights." This position is reiterated by the U.S. State Department
which advises "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction." Saudi law always favors a Muslim parent over a non-Muslim parent, and the family members of the father have more rights than a childs mother.
Sharia law explains why it is reported the court ruling has had no effect on Prince Sattam al-Saud, as he is fully compliant with Saudi law whilst his daughter remains in the Kingdom. The prince told the Telegraph that he would challenge the decision of the French court, even though he said "France hasn’t got the right to take her back. She is a Saudi citizen and a princess. They cannot oblige a princess to leave this country.”