A British woman who has not seen her daughter for more than seven years and is at the centre of an ongoing legal battle with the youngster’s Egyptian father is enduring agony which is hard to imagine, a High Court judge has said.
Former teacher Tamer Salama took four-year-old Elsa Salama from her mother Naomi Button in December 2011 while all three were visiting his relatives in Egypt.
Ms Button, a leadership consultant from Leeds, was forced to return to England alone and has not seen Elsa, now 12 and thought to be living with Salama’s mother in Cairo, since.
She launched family court litigation after arriving back in the hope of getting Elsa home and is continuing that fight.
Salama, who subsequently returned to England without Elsa, was jailed in January 2012 for breaching judges’ orders to arrange Elsa’s return to England or to reveal where she was.
But a judge ordered his release in December 2013 after deciding that continuing to keep him in prison was no longer proportionate or justifiable.
Mr Justice Mostyn, who is overseeing the latest stage of litigation, said on Tuesday that Ms Button and Elsa were victims of “formidable” cruelty.
He said, in a ruling published following a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court earlier this month, that Salama had allowed Ms Button a “few occasions of Skype contact” which ceased more than two years ago.
“The cruelty that is being inflicted on this woman and this child is formidable,” said the judge.
“It is hard to imagine the daily agony that this mother must endure.”
Salama says he does not know where Elsa is.
The judge said he was “absolutely sure” that statement was “completely false”.
He added: “I am convinced that Elsa’s continued abduction is done with the active complicity of the father and at his behest.”
Mr Justice Mostyn had said at the hearing earlier this month that he would ask Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt for help finding Elsa.
He formally made that request in his ruling on Tuesday and asked Mr Hunt to use all “diplomatic measures” to trace the youngster.