The former partner of Latvian woman Baibe Saulite who was shot dead at her home in Swords in November will be sentenced next week by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for the abduction of their children.
Hassan Hassan (aged 38) of Forestfield Road, Swords, pleaded guilty to two counts of abducting his children in December 2004. The then two-and-a-half year and 17-month-old boys were taken from Ireland to Syria where they were cared for by Hassan's mother until they returned to Ireland in September 2005.
Hassan, who is serving a four-year sentence for handling stolen vehicles, has been remanded in custody by Judge Michael White in relation to the abduction charges and was earlier refused bail to attended Ms Saulite's funeral and see his children.
Sergeant Liam Hughes of Swords garda station told Mr Dominic McGinn BL, prosecuting, that Hassan was not the legal guardian of his children at the time of the abduction. Ms Saulite had custody of the boys and Hassan had access to them by mutual consent.
Sgt Hughes said that on December 6, 2004 the children were staying with their father at an address in Blanchardstown and were due to return to their mother on December 9. She rang each day to check on the boys but was told by Hassan they were asleep or unavailable to talk to her.
On the day they were to return to their mother, Hassan asked Ms Saulite if they could stay with him for another night. She refused and went to Swords garda station. Hassan told her she would never see the boys again and that they were already in England.
Sgt Hughes said that over the following days Hassan gave a number of different versions of what had happened to the children and Ms Saulite made an application at Swords District Court for their return.
Hassan said the boys were in his native Lebanon and the District Court ordered they be produced on December 21, 2004 but neither the boys nor the accused appeared on that date.
On December 23, 2004 gardaí brought Hassan to court and Ms Saulite's solicitor heard him make a number of comments to her including: "You will never get the children back unless you drop all charges"; "No one can force me to bring back the children"; "I have serious charges, I don't care how long I stay in prison" and: "When I finish prison, then you can get your children back."
Sgt Hughes said Hassan was found in contempt of court and remanded in custody at Clover Hill where he was given a phone card and had to provide a list of numbers to call. The list included his mother in Syria and his sister's husband's mobile number.
Sgt Hughes said all prisoner's calls are recorded and the District Court ordered that Hassan's be translated from Arabic. It was clear from the calls that he knew his sons were in Syria being cared for by his mother. He had asked to speak to the boys and had made arrangements in relation to money for their upkeep.
Hassan was arrested on January 7, 2005 and interviewed at Swords garda station where he claimed that he was afraid Ms Saulite would bring the chidden to Latvia and had removed them from Ireland in order to avoid this.
He said he had no difficulty with her visiting the boys in Syria and had intended to bring them back to Ireland in January but would not then do so as he was in prison and would not be able to prevent her from bringing them to Latvia.
He also stated that the boys had been registered with the authorities in Syria and returning them to Ireland may be problematic.
Judge White heard the children were returned in September 2005 and asked why there had been such a long delay. Sgt Hughes replied that Hassan's contempt of court had been dealt with on January 11, 2005.
Hassan was then charged with abduction in August 2005 and applied to the High Court for bail which was granted on condition that he return the children. Arrangements were made in September 2005 for his family to bring the boys to Beirut where they were met by Ms Saulite and brought back to Ireland.
Judge White heard that Ms Saulite's only contact with her children during this time was by phone.
Sgt Hughes said Hassan, who has lived in Ireland for 20 years and is an Irish citizen, entered a guilty plea to the charges on the morning of his trial on November 7, 2006.
He was convicted of criminal damage in December 2001 and of for his role in a plan to export stolen vehicles to the Middle East in March 2006. Judge White heard that he was on bail for the latter when he abducted the children.
Ms Moran said Hassan and Ms Saulite had had a five-year relationship which included difficulties and periods of separation but that access to the children had "never been an issue".
Sgt Hughes said Ms Saulite was a "loving mother who had looked after her children very well".
Ms Moran said her client had acted out of fear that he would never see his children again if brought to Latvia and that a "tug of war" situation had developed between the parents. She said Ms Saulite and Hassan had continued to live together after the children were returned to Ireland and lived apart only a week before he went to prison in March 2006.
Ms Moran said Ms Saulite had then been visiting Hassan in Mountjoy Prison twice a week with the children.
Sgt Hughes agreed that the events had stemmed from "a domestic matter which had gotten out of hand". He agreed that Hassan was a loving father and that the children's physical welfare had never been at risk.
Ms Moran told Judge White that Hassan was suffering greatly due to his separation from his children and asked him to be as lenient as possible under the circumstances.
Judge White last month refused Hassan's application for bail in relation to these charges on grounds there was concern that a witness would be interfered with as well as a genuine risk Hassan would not appear for his sentence hearing.
Detective Inspector Walter O'Sullivan, who is overseeing the investigation into the death of Ms Saulite, told Judge White at that hearing that he had privileged information which led him to believe that, if released, Hassan would commit serious offences including murder, assault, intimidation and interference with witnesses.
Det Inspt O'Sullivan said he had "real fears" with regard to the information and added: "I do not say it lightly."