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Hay Festival severs UAE ties after sex assault claim by employee

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image captionSheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan's lawyers say he is "surprised and saddened" by the allegations

The Hay literary festival has accused a senior Gulf royal of an "appalling violation" after he allegedly sexually assaulted one of their employees.

Caroline Michel, Hay chair, said they would not work in Abu Dhabi again while Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan remains minister of tolerance.

Their employee, Caitlin McNamara, claims he attacked her earlier this year and is seeking legal redress.

Sheikh Nahyan, 69, has denied the allegations.

Ms McNamara, 32, told the Sunday Times that the alleged attack happened on 14 February at a remote private island villa where she had been summoned, she thought, to discuss preparations for the first-ever Hay Festival in Abu Dhabi, which was opening 11 days later.

She said she told both her employer and embassy officials soon after the attack, and went to the police in the UK when coronavirus lockdown restrictions lifted.

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According to the Sunday Times, Ms McNamara is waiting to hear whether the Crown Prosecution Service will take up her case, and said she had decided to waive her right to anonymity because "I feel I have nothing to lose".

"I want to do this because I want to highlight the effect of powerful men like him doing things like that and thinking they can get away with it," she told the newspaper.

"It seemed clear from the set up I was not the first or last. It really took a massive mental and physical toll on me for what to him was probably just a whim."

The Sunday Times said Sheikh Nahyan had not responded to its approach for a comment on the allegations, but had received a statement from London libel lawyers Schillings which said: "Our client is surprised and saddened by this allegation, which arrives eight months after the alleged incident and via a national newspaper. The account is denied."

Schillings declined to give further comment to the BBC.

In a statement, posted on Twitter, 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."

Related Topics

  • United Arab Emirates
  • Hay-on-wye