The former partner of Latvian woman Baibe Saulite who was shot dead at her home in Swords in November has been jailed for two years by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for the abduction of their children.
Judge Michael White ordered that the sentence be served consecutively to a four-year sentence Hassan Hassan (aged 38) received in March 2006 for handling stolen vehicles.
Hassan 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 returned to Ireland in September 2005.
Judge White allowed Hassan to take the witness stand this morning although all evidence in the case had been heard on Friday. Hassan told the court that he had abducted his children because Ms Saulite had threatened to take them to Latvia and he would never see them again.
Judge White said Ms Saulite was unable to respond to this allegation as she had been murdered since Hassan had pleaded guilty. He said there was no evidence she had been about to remove the children from Ireland.
Judge White said that at the time of the abduction Hassan had been exercising his rights over his children and they were in his custody when he directed them to be taken to Syria where they remained for nine months despite Hassan being ordered by Swords District Court to produce the children.
He said Hassan's actions had been premeditated and well planned and that the young age of the children was an aggravating factor as their removal from their mother must have been traumatic.
Judge White said Hassan, an Irish citizen, had not sought any court order at the time of the abduction to prevent his children from being taken to Latvia. He said Latvia, unlike Syria, was a signatory to certain European Conventions which would have allowed Hassan to assert his parental rights there.
Judge White said Hassan had made clear efforts to intimidate Ms Saulite and the court earlier heard that he had told her: "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".
Hassan told his counsel Ms Patricia Moran SC that he was sorry for what had happened and that he loved his children "more than my life". He said he had not believed that matters would reach this stage and he had been in fear that Ms Saulite would take the children to Latvia.
He said Ms Saulite had a barring order against him at the time of the abduction and this increased his fear that he would be separated from his sons. He claimed that Ms Saulite threatened that her mother would take the children to Russia where he would never find them.
He told Judge White that he did not want his children to be without a mother or father and that while the children were in Syria he had sought assurances from the District Court that, if returned, they could not be taken out of Ireland.
He said he had not meant to keep them in Syria for so long and that he had missed them as much as Ms Saulite had. Hassan said he had asked Ms Saulite to visit the children in Syria but she had not done so. He added that when she went to Lebanon to pick up the children from his relatives she had stayed with his family until her return flight and that they had "loved her like a daughter".
Hassan said his children had been brought to visit him in prison last week and that this made him very happy. "If I lose my children I lose my life," he said.
Sergeant Liam Hughes of Swords garda station earlier told Mr Dominic McGinn BL, prosecuting, 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.
On December 9 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.
Ms Saulite made an application at Swords District Court for their return which was not complied with by Hassan who was jailed for contempt of court. His phone calls from Clover Hill were recorded and revealed that he knew his sons were in Syria being cared for by his mother.
Hassan was charged with abduction in August 2005 and applied to the High Court for bail which was granted on condition that he return the children.
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.