Suit against sheikh dismissed

A federal judge in Lexington has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that a United Arab Emirates leader with ties to the Kentucky horse industry was part of a ring that enslaved child jockeys.

U.S. District Judge Karl Forester, in an opinion entered Tuesday, dismissed the case against Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al-Maktoum, deputy ruler and finance administrator of the United Arab Emirates, saying that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

Attorneys for the child jockeys had originally filed the case in Florida, but a federal judge dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds. The Florida judge left open the possibility that the case could be refiled in Kentucky because of the family's ties to Kentucky.

The Maktoum family frequently comes to Kentucky to buy horses at Keeneland. The Maktoums also have connections with Shadwell Farm. But in court documents, Sheikh Hamdan denied that he was an officer, owner or manager of Shadwell Farm in Fayette County.

Forester said that lawyers for the former child jockeys had not "established sufficient minimum contacts with Kentucky to allow the exercise of general personal jurisdiction."

The lawsuit alleged that the Maktoum family knew about and was part of an extensive human trafficking ring that brought boys from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan and other African and South Asian countries, placed them in desert camps and trained them to race camels.

Some of the children were as young as 2, and some were injected with drugs to stop them from growing, the lawsuit alleges. Some were allegedly sexually and physically abused.

John Eubanks, a South Carolina lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the child jockeys and their parents, said his clients were not sure whether they would appeal Forester's decision.

A representative of the Maktoum family called the lawsuits a distraction from the programs that the United Arab Emirates have started to help former child jockeys.

"After carefully reviewing the facts and the law, Judge Forester has delivered a thoughtful and correct ruling confirming our belief that these baseless claims never belonged in U.S. courts," said Dr. Habib al-Mulla, representative of Sheikh Hamdan.