source: Calgary Herald
The eight-year-old boy at the centre of an international parental abduction case is back in Calgary, but the legal case over his custody is far from over.
The lawyer representing Layale Khalifeh confirmed Friday that she recently returned to Canada with her son, Jad El-Husseini, who had been in Lebanon with his father for a year.
But the circumstances surrounding Jad’s return to the country remain unclear. The boy’s father, Mohamad El-Husseini — who is wanted by authorities in Canada for allegedly abducting Jad in contravention of a custody order — is claiming Khalifeh violated a Lebanese court order by bringing him back to Canada.
The two sides will be in a Calgary courtroom next week, when Khalifeh’s lawyer, Andy Hayher, is seeking to restore full custody and care of Jad to his client.
“We’re going to work through the courts to try to get some normalcy back in (Jad’s) life,” Hayher said.
Hayher declined to comment on the specifics of Khalifeh’s journey back to Canada with Jad, but he refuted the accusation she abducted him in the process.
“To me, that makes no sense, because Jad is a Canadian citizen,” he said.
Khalifeh and El-Husseini married in Lebanon in 2005, separated in 2011 and divorced in Calgary in March 2014. Last July, Khalifeh agreed to let El-Husseini travel with Jad to Toronto, then Lebanon, for a vacation and to visit relatives.
Khalifeh signed a legal consent letter that specified El-Husseini and their son would return to Calgary on Sept. 1, but they never arrived. When Khalifeh went looking for El-Husseini, she found his house vacant, a second property had been sold and that he had cancelled his return tickets to Canada.
Khalifeh went to police, who charged El-Husseini with parental abduction and issued a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest. Khalifeh also obtained an order in Court of Queen’s Bench granting her sole custody of Jad.
However, the arrest warrant — which remains in effect — and the Calgary court order don’t have any authority in Lebanon, which never signed an international treaty governing parental abductions, known as The Hague Convention.
Khalifeh went to Lebanon last September to find her ex-husband and Jad. She hired a lawyer who practises Islamic sharia law, which in Lebanon governs family legal matters such as marriage, divorce and child custody.
After finding El-Husseini, Khalifeh was able to petition a Lebanese court for access to Jad. However, Hayher said Khalifeh had to agree to quash the Canadian order granting her sole custody before the Lebanese court would allow her to spend time with her son. Hayher alleged she made the decision under duress.
“She was compelled to agree to a number of things she normally wouldn’t have agreed to,” he said.
In an affidavit filed in support of her bid to have custody restored, Khalifeh accused El-Husseini of abuse and trying to indoctrinate their son with anti-western views.
“I found (Jad) to be markedly different in Lebanon. He was much angrier and violent. I believe this was due to some of the fanatical and extremist ideology that the plaintiff was imparting on my son,” Khalifeh stated in her affidavit.
“My son would tell me that the plaintiff would routinely tell him how terrible Israel was and that Canada was like Israel.”
El-Husseini’s lawyer in Calgary, Max Blitt, denied the abuse allegations in Khalifeh’s affidavit and said his client never tried to force extremist ideologies on Jad.
“He practises his faith, as his mother’s family practises their faith,” Blitt said.
Blitt said his client opposes Khalifeh’s custody claim and he alleged she breached the Lebanese court’s order by bringing him back to Calgary.
“In violation of the Lebanese agreement, she took him back to Canada,” said Blitt.
“There’s a double abduction (allegation). How the courts deal with that is going to be very interesting.”
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