Dubai to continue fighting US child jockey lawsuit


"We were gratified that Judge (Cecilia) Altonaga … conducted a thoughtful and substantive hearing on our motion to dismiss" the lawsuit during Monday’s hearing in Miami, Florida, Habib al-Mulla told AFP.

Mulla, who represents Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum and his brother, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashed al-Maktoum, said defence lawyers would "continue to make our case in all appropriate ways that this misguided lawsuit is not in the best interests of the children formerly involved in camel racing."

The class-action lawsuit filed in Miami last September by parents of child jockeys alleges Sheikh Mohammad, Sheikh Hamdan and other unnamed defendants kidnapped and enslaved thousands of children from Asia and Africa who worked as camel jockeys.

A programme of repatriation and compensation carried out by the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is part, "is providing benefits to more children, and is doing so faster and with greater certainty than would any remedy mandated by US courts," Mulla said.

Defence lawyers argued during Monday’s hearing that the federal court has no jurisdiction over the issue.

Altonaga did not say when she would rule whether to dismiss the lawsuit in which the plaintiffs are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Mohammad bin Rashed is also vice president and prime minister of the UAE, an oil-rich Gulf country and US ally. He serves as finance and industry minister.

Mulla has dismissed the charges against the Emirati leaders as "baseless."

More than 1,000 child jockeys have been repatriated under the UAE programme, carried out in conjunction with the United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) following a 2005 ban on the use of children in camel racing.

The compensation plan was agreed with the former jockeys’ home countries — Bangladesh, Mauritania, Pakistan and Sudan.

In February, Sheikh Mohammad asked US President George W. Bush for help in having the complaint dismissed, arguing it could affect ties between the two countries.

The US government notified the court last week it would decide by September 17 whether to participate in the litigation, and asked the judge not to rule on the motion to dismiss until that date.

Judge Altonaga said at Monday’s hearing she had yet to decide whether to comply with the request.


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