In December 2016, 9-year-old Layla Sabry was the subject of an Amber Alert after her mother, Allana Haist, took her and went into hiding instead of attending a scheduled court hearing.  After a 10-day Canada-wide manhunt, Ms. Haist was arrested in Hamilton, Ontario. Custody Battle Layla was born and primarily raised in Egypt by her mother and father, Mohamed Abdel-Motaleb.  After the parties’ divorce, Layla was the subject of a custody battle in Egypt.   Ms. Haist moved Layla from Egypt to Canada in August 2016.  Ms. Haist claimed she fled Egypt to protect Layla from ongoing sexual abuse at the hands of her father.  Mr. Abdel-Motaleb denied all allegations of abuse and sought to have the child return to Egypt with him. “Malicious Contrivance” Ms. Haist brought an application for custody of Layla to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.  Mr. Abdel-Motaleb brought a motion to stay the application on grounds that the Court did not have jurisdiction to hear it.  On January 27, 2017 Justice James Ramsay ruled that Mr. Abdel-Motaleb was free to return to Egypt with Layla to continue the custody case in that jurisdiction.  Justice Ramsey concluded that the Ontario Court did not have jurisdiction over the issue of permanent custody of the child: H. v. A.-M.. Although Ms. Haist argued strenuously that her daughter was at risk of abuse if not removed from the custody of her father, the Court did not accept her version of the facts.  Justice Ramsay delivered strong words of disbelief with respect to the mother’s allegations:

  • “…[Ms. Haist} is a remorseless and persistent liar.”
  • “[There was] no credible evidence of the prospect of sexual abuse.”
  • “[The allegations were] a malicious contrivance of the mother.”
  • “The mother isolated the child from her father and put her under relentless pressure to accuse him;”
  • “The observed conduct of the child is consistent not only with sexual abuse but could also result from the stress of her parents’ separation and her mother’s psychological pressure;”

The Court did not find the videotaped statements of Layla accusing her father as her attacker to be compelling.  He said the statements were “incredible on their face”, and the result of pressure by her mother to accuse her father.  Further, the Court found that the details of the allegations by Layla (gangs of men, and a 500-room sex and murder factory) were so implausible as to be impossible:

“To say that they ring false is a colossal understatement.”

A Child Abduction Charge and the Custody Ruling  Allana Haist faces a charge of child abduction relating to the Amber Alert, which is still before Canadian Courts. The custody battle, if it is to continue, will continue in Egypt.  It’s not clear whether Ms. Haist will return to Egypt to fight for custody of Layla as she may face charges there as well. While it’s unclear how this unsettling case will end, what’s clear is that Layla’s safety and well-being is at risk.  Children are often the unwitting victims in ongoing battles between ex-spouses as they become entangled in the push and pull between parties.  In this case, Layla was pulled from her home and taken back and forth across the globe, ostensibly for her sake.  Let’s hope the truth prevails and Layla finds the security and peace she deserves. If you have questions about child custody or any other family law matter, contact the experienced lawyers at Gelman & Associates at (416) 736-0200 or 1-844-742-0200 or contact us online for a confidential initial consultation.