Mum faces fight to get children back

Clare Wagner with her three children, Laila, Suhaila and Tariq Elemam
Clare Wagner with her three children, Laila, Suhaila and Tariq Elemam

A HEARTBROKEN mum has spoken of her desperation at a tug of love battle over her three children who are in Libya with their father.

Clare Wagner claims that she was forced to leave her two daughters, Laila, nine, Suhaila, five, and son, Tariq Eleman, four, after her ex-husband, Abdul Munem Eleman, refused to allow her to take them back to her Beech Hill home.

The ordeal began in January last year when Clare moved to Benghazi to be with Abdul, 43, on the understanding, she says, that if she was unhappy, she could return with the children. When she requested to leave, she claims he refused to let her take their offspring. She alleges he drove her to the airport and she had no option but to get the plane home in June, as he was watching her.

Clare, 29, said: “I met Abdul in 2001 through friends when he came to study at Wigan and Leigh College. We got together 16 months later and got married in 2003. But when I turned Muslim, he became jealous and things turned sour. We had visited his family in Libya every year and in October 2012, he said he wanted to return there permanently. He asked me to move with him. He put his hand on the Koran and said that if it did not work out, I could come home with the children. So in the middle of December 2012 he flew out with Laila and I followed in January with my other two children. After a while, I told him I wanted to go home but he told me the children were staying with him.”

Clare, a former council passenger assistant, had to carry on as normal and got a job as an English teacher at the International School of Benghazi.

She said she wanted to go home to fast for Ramadan because it was too hot and she arranged a flight with her three children for July 2.

But when Abdul had seen a private message to her friend on Facebook, he realised she didn’t intend to come back. After a dramatic altercation, Clare alleges that she was driven to the airport against her will, seriously fearing for her life.

She recalled the tearful moment she had to say goodbye to her children: “I had Laila grabbing hold of one leg and Suhaila on the other, both pleading for me not to go. My son was crying. They were all traumatised.”

As soon as Clare landed, she made a complaint to police, who said it was up to the Libyan authorities to deal with the matter. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office similarly said it does not have any power to remove a child from one parent and return them to another.

She obtained a court order which states that the English courts have primary jurisdiction in matters of parental responsibility and the children are currently wrongfully retained by their father.

It orders that Abdul, who works for a lift firm, must immediately return the children to Clare and both must attend a family hearing. But this can only be enforced in England.

Clare, who is now divorced from Abdul under Islamic law, kept in contact with her children via phone and Skype, but their father stopped that last month. Clare is now fund-raising under the Facebook group - Laila Suhaila Tariq My Beautiful Children - to fly back to Libya to challenge the courts there.

She said: “I will have to go back to Libya and get a lawyer to fight to get custody of my kids and then face another fight to bring them home, I have been so ill over this, I am worried more about what my kids are going through than me. I know they will want their mummy to come back.”

The Evening Post was unable to contact Abdul Munem Eleman, despite several attempts. Any businesses with prizes to donate for a charity night can call Clare on 0755 468 2988.