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The Schmooze

Jewish Mom in Custody Battle With Saudi Prince

A Saudi prince is facing an international arrest warrant for not handing over custody of his 10-year-old daughter to her French-Jewish mother.

The Paris criminal court ordered Prince Sattam al-Saud, of the royal Saudi family, to give the little girl, Aya, to her mother, Candice Cohen-Ahnine. The prince, however, says he is not planning to do so. “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,” he reportedly said.

In a he-said/she-said battle resulting from an interfaith romance gone sour, al-Saud refutes Cohen-Ahnine’s charges that he kidnapped both mother and daughter. The prince reportedly gave Cohen-Ahnine the option of becoming his second wife and living with him in his Riyadh palace when he became obligated to marry a cousin in 2006 (he and Cohen-Ahnine had met at a London nightclub in 1998 and their daughter was born in 2001), but she refused and they separated.

Cohen-Ahnine claims that the prince detained her and the little girl against their will while they were on a visit to Saudi Arabia in 2008. The mother managed to escape the palace and seek refuge in the French embassy, but the daughter remained behind. According to the Telegraph, Cohen-Ahnine had to be secretly taken out of the country because al-Saud had produced a document purporting that she had converted from Islam to Judaism, which is a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

It looks as though neither efforts by the Sarkozy government on behalf of Cohen-Ahnine, nor the French court’s custody and $13,000 per month child support order are going to help all that much. “What do I care of Sarkozy?” al-Saud told Nouvel Observateur magazine. “If need be, I’ll go like [Osama] bin Laden and hide in the mountains with Aya.”

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