Emirati minister of tolerance accused of ‘serious sexual assault’

Emirati minister of tolerance is accused of ‘serious sexual assault’ by the organiser of the Hay literary festival in Abu Dhabi who says Sheikh ‘assaulted her on Valentine’s Day’

  • Caitlin McNamara, 32, claims Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan assaulted her
  • She was in Abu Dhabi working on the launch of the Hay literary festival in the city
  • McNamara claims the Sheikh called her to a meeting at his home in February
  • It was there that she claims the Sheikh sexually assault her – which he denies

The Emirati minister of tolerance has been accused of ‘serious sexual assault’ by the organiser of the Hay literary festival in Abu Dhabi.

Caitlin McNamara says she was attacked by Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, 69, on Valentine’s Day earlier this year.

Ms McNamara, 32, who was in Abu Dhabi working on the launch of the festival in the city, has now been interviewed by Scotland Yard.

She has waived her right to anonymity and, in an interview with the Sunday Times, spoken publicly about the alleged assault.

The sheikh – who is a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family and likes to be known as the ‘Sheikh of Hearts’ – denies any wrongdoing, and said over the weekend that he was ‘surprised and saddened’ by the claims made by McNamara.

On Saturday, the directors of the Hay festival pledged never to return to the UAE while the Sheikh remains in his post as the minister of tolerance in the United Arab Emirates cabinet.

Nahyan has previously hosted both Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London and also former Prime Minister Tony Blair. 

Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, 69, (pictured) has been accused by a British woman - Caitlin McNamara - of sexually assaulting her on Valentine's day in Abu Dhabi

McNamara, 32, who was in Abu Dhabi working on the launch of the festival in the city has now been interviewed by Scotland Yard

Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, 69, (pictured) has been accused by a British woman – Caitlin McNamara (right), the organiser of the Hay literary festival in Abu Dhabi – of sexually assaulting her on Valentine’s Day

Nahyan previously hosted Boris Johnson in 2013 when the then mayor of London went to Abu Dhabi as part of a trade mission

Nahyan previously hosted Boris Johnson in 2013 when the then mayor of London went to Abu Dhabi as part of a trade mission

Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan’s family is the fourth richest royal family in the world.

According to Business Insider, it controls a sovereign wealth fund with assets estimated to be worth £640bn, including Manchester City football team.

In 2013, Nahyan, who was educated in the UK and attended Oxford University, welcomed Boris Johnson to Abu Dhabi when he came to the country as part of a trade mission.

At the time, the sheikh was minister of culture and youth. In the same role, he also hosted Tony Blair when he attended the opening of the UAE’s global education and skills forum.

Nahyan also hosted Tony Blair when he attended the opening of the UAE's global education and skills forum

Nahyan also hosted Tony Blair when he attended the opening of the UAE’s global education and skills forum

He and Blair were previously photographed together at the Volvo Ocean Race in Abu Dhabi.

After he left office, Blair worked as a consultant for UAE’s sovereign wealth fund.

Ms McNamara had spent almost six months working at the Sheikh’s ministry after being hired by the Hay festival to organise its first event in the UAE.

On the morning of the alleged assault, which was Valentines Day, she told The Sunday Times that she received a phone call from the Sheikh inviting her to dinner, saying she had never spoken to him on the phone before then.

‘After six months there I was used to being summoned to meetings at all times of day,’ she told the newspaper. ‘And no one said no to Nahyan — he was like a god.’

From the car which was taking her to meet Nahyan, Ms McNamara texted Peter Florence, the head of the Hay Festival.

She described how she felt like she had been ‘called to the headmaster’s office for disrupting class,’ before joking that Florence should ‘send help’ if she did not return in 24 hours.

Despite the joky tone, Ms McNamara said she felt uncomfortable and so turned on her Whatsapp tracker, enabling others to follow her location.

The sheikh - who is a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family and likes to be known as the 'Sheikh of Hearts' - denies any wrongdoing, and said over the weekend that he was 'surprised and saddened' by the claims made by McNamara. Pictured: Mr Johnson and the Sheikh in 2013

The sheikh – who is a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family and likes to be known as the ‘Sheikh of Hearts’ – denies any wrongdoing, and said over the weekend that he was ‘surprised and saddened’ by the claims made by McNamara. Pictured: Mr Johnson and the Sheikh in 2013

Nahyan, who was educated in the UK and attended Oxford University, welcomed Boris Johnson to Abu Dhabi when he came to the country as part of a trade mission

Nahyan, who was educated in the UK and attended Oxford University, welcomed Boris Johnson to Abu Dhabi when he came to the country as part of a trade mission

Her disquiet grew when, instead of heading to the royal palace, she said the car that picked her up drove in the opposite direction and started going away from the city, with the driver not telling her where they were driving to.

McNamara said that she was taken across a bridge to a small island that she believes to be the exclusive Al Gurm resort, where many of the Emirati royals own properties, and then to the Sheikh’s house.

There, she was taken inside where she met the Sheikh, who she said was very friendly towards her, greeting her with a hug and producing a £3,500 watch with gold and diamonds.

They were also drinking wine, she said, which surprised her because it is prohibited in the country. 

Ms McNamara, pictured above in 2014, has waived her right to anonymity and, in an interview with the Sunday Times , spoken publicly about the alleged assault

Ms McNamara had spent almost six months working at the Sheikh's ministry after being hired by the Hay festival to organise its first event in the UAE.

Ms McNamara, pictured above in 2014, has waived her right to anonymity and, in an interview with the Sunday Times , spoken publicly about the alleged assault

Nahyan was also pictured with sports stars Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal after final of the Capitala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on January 3, 2009

Nahyan was also pictured with sports stars Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal after final of the Capitala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on January 3, 2009

After trying to keep the conversation professional, talking about a poet – which irritated the Sheikh – McNamara then claims that he started touching her.

‘It was creepy,’ she said. ‘He was on the sofa next to me and began touching my arm and feet and I was pulling away, then he got forceful… Suddenly, it clicked why I was there. I felt so naive.’

At that point, McNamara said her situation dawned on her, and she began thinking of ways she could escape from the home and the island without offending him by making him think she was rejecting him.

After she tried to find excuses to leave, McNamara said the Sheikh instead took her on a tour of the house, at one point ‘grabbing her face and kissing her’, and when inside a gold elevator, she claims he assaulted her again.

‘We got in a gold lift where he pushed me against the wall and began rubbing my breasts in a weird way like windscreen wipers,’ she claimed. 

From the car which was taking her to meet Nahyan, Ms McNamara texted Peter Florence, the head of the Hay Festival. She described how she felt like she had been 'called to the headmaster's office for disrupting class,' before joking that Florence should 'send help' if she did not return in 24 hours

From the car which was taking her to meet Nahyan, Ms McNamara texted Peter Florence, the head of the Hay Festival. She described how she felt like she had been ‘called to the headmaster’s office for disrupting class,’ before joking that Florence should ‘send help’ if she did not return in 24 hours

In text exchanges with Florence after the alleged incident, she told him that Nahyan had kissed her and that she needed to 'get out of here'. Florence told her to 'come home immediately'

In text exchanges with Florence after the alleged incident, she told him that Nahyan had kissed her and that she needed to ‘get out of here’. Florence told her to ‘come home immediately’

‘He pulled up his kandora and was naked under, and got on top of me. I pulled my dress down but he put his hands up my dress and his fingers inside of me.’

Nahyan has denied the allegations.

Eventually, McNamara told The Times that she was able to get downstairs, out the door and into a car away from the island, and the following morning took a two-hour taxi to Dubai.

In text exchanges with Florence after the alleged incident, she told him that Nahyan had kissed her and that she needed to ‘get out of here’. Florence told her to ‘come home immediately.’ 

Nahyan with former French president Nicolas Sarkozy (left) and former US secretary of state James Baker (right) in 2013

Nahyan with former French president Nicolas Sarkozy (left) and former US secretary of state James Baker (right) in 2013

In the days that followed the alleged assault, Ms McNamara claims that the Sheikh tried to call her multiple times and also texted her. Pictured: The alleged texts

In the days that followed the alleged assault, Ms McNamara claims that the Sheikh tried to call her multiple times and also texted her. Pictured: The alleged texts 

In the days that followed, she claims that the Sheikh tried to call her multiple times and also texted her.

The full statement from the chairman of the Hay Festival

In a statement, posted on Twitter on Sunday, Hay Festival Chair Caroline Michel, said: ‘What happened to our colleague and friend Caitlin McNamara in Abu Dhabi last February was an appalling violation and a hideous abuse of trust and position.

‘Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan made a mockery of his ministerial responsibilities and tragically undermined his government’s attempt to work with Hay Festival to promote free speech and female empowerment’.

‘We continue to support Caitlin in seeking legal redress for this attack and we urge our friends and partners in the UAE to reflect on the behaviour of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan and send a clear signal to the world that such behaviour will not be tolerated. 

Hay Festival will not be returning to Abu Dhabi while he remains in position.’

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One alleged text, which is visible in a screenshot, reads, ‘Good morning my dearest darling I all is going as plan have a wonderful day don’t stress yourself looking forward to see you soon miss you take care LoL.’

On February 25, the festival opened as planned, and on March 5, she flew back to London as the coronavirus pandemic started to gather pace. 

‘What he had done affected everything,’ she said, telling The Sunday Times that she has since split up with her long-term boyfriend, lost her job and feels she could never return to the UAE.

During lockdown, she reached out to Philippe Sands – renowned writer and human rights barrister – who put her in touch with Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, a leading voice on women’s rights.

‘For a man who is a leading minister of his nation to grossly violate a women who is there to organise a major cultural event is criminal,’ Kennedy told The Times.

‘The UAE should sack him immediately but I suspect that will not happen. His family owns the country.’

As soon as lockdown ended, McNamara contacted to the police, giving them a three hour interview at the Family Unit in Stratford, east London.

Following the interview, the police took her security concerns so seriously they fitted panic alarms in her flat.

The Sunday Times reached out to the Sheikh and his representatives for a response to the allegations but he did no directly respond, the newspaper reported.

It did receive a response from London libel lawyers Schillings with a statement.

‘Our client is surprised and saddened by this allegation, which arrives eight months after the alleged incident and via a national newspaper,’ it said. ‘The account is denied.’

Caroline Michel, chair of the Hay board, told the Sunday Times on Saturday night that the alleged assault was ‘an appalling violation and a hideous abuse of trust and position.’

On Saturday, the directors of the Hay festival pledged never to return to the UAE while the Sheikh remains in his post as the minister of tolerance in the United Arab Emirates cabinet

On Saturday, the directors of the Hay festival pledged never to return to the UAE while the Sheikh remains in his post as the minister of tolerance in the United Arab Emirates cabinet

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