Mother held in Egypt in 'movie-like' custody battle

A Melbourne woman and her daughter remain trapped in Egypt despite an Australian court ruling that a ban preventing the pair leaving the troubled country be lifted.

The woman and her daughter have been stuck in Egypt after she made an aborted attempt to snatch the four-year-old from her husband's Egyptian relatives to resolve a custody dispute.

On Monday, the Australian Family Court heard the Egyptian-born husband had obtained an official travel ban on his wife and daughter to stop them leaving Egypt.

Family Court judge Paul Cronin ruled the husband, who is based in Australia, must do ''all acts and things necessary'' to have the ban withdrawn.

He said the husband, who has permanent residency in Australia, must sign all necessary documents stating he has no objection to the wife and child travelling immediately out of Egypt.

Justice Cronin stripped the husband of his passport and put him on Australian Federal Police's airport watch list to ensure he does not flee before compliance.

Last night the husband said: ''Whatever the court says we will obey.'' He said he needed his lawyer to properly understand the order.

Speaking from Egypt after the decision, the stranded mother said: ''We are still stuck in Egypt and although he's been ordered to remove it, it hasn't been done yet. I can't see he's going to want to do it.

''We just want to get out of here and get home.'' None of the parties can be named under family law.

The ruling is the latest twist in the complex custody row that Justice Cronin likened to the ''sort of stuff you see in moves'' amid claims the husband had been imprisoned on a boat off the North Queensland coast while his wife and a ''child-recovery specialist'' went to Egypt to snatch the daughter.

The dispute occurred after the mother and husband agreed to leave the child for a short period in Egypt with the husband's family to learn the culture and the language while they returned to Melbourne.

After two months, when the child had still not returned to Australia, the mother became suspicious. While her husband was in north Queensland in early August, she successfully obtained temporary custody of the child.

She then travelled to Egypt with her father and, during a visit with her husband's family, they snatched the child. But she has been unable to leave due to the travel ban.

She applied last week to the Family Court for an order to force her husband to lift the ban.

Justice Cronin likened the allegations to a bizarre movie plot but said he was left with a ''distinct disquiet'' about whether the wife ''had clean hands''.

''It seems the husband was lured to far north Queensland on a boat. The trip came to an end and he was dumped in Cairns. During his absence, his wife left Australia.''

The story Mother held in Egypt in 'movie-like' custody battle first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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