Dad just wants to see daughter for Christmas

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2012
Craig Soper
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
FRUSTRATING: Invercargill man Craig Soper has been fighting for custody of his daughter Anneliese, now 3 1/2 and living in Brunei, for 18 months.

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An Invercargill man, who says his 2-year-old daughter was illegally detained in Brunei 18 months ago, is no closer to getting her home and now faces the prospect of Christmas without her.

Craig Soper was in Brunei with his wife, Waznah Othman, and daughter, Anneliese Soper, on a softball tour and family holiday in June 2011 when his wife filed for temporary custody of their daughter.

Airport immigration officials refused to allow the toddler to return home with her father, Mr Soper said.

His wife and daughter - who was born in Brunei but has New Zealand citizenship - have been in Brunei since.

Mr Soper has visited Brunei four times in the past 18 months to see his daughter, now 3 , and to fight for custody through the courts, but yesterday said it had been a frustrating and slow process.

He claims the temporary custody order granted to his wife in Brunei was wrong in that country's law because custody cannot be granted to one parent if a couple are married. He had challenged that issue through the Syariah Court in Brunei, saying that once the challenge was lodged, the court order for temporary custody should have automatically been set aside until the full hearing - as detailed in a Syariah High Court precedent. However, that had not been done.

The judge was being "tardy" in allowing his case to get to the High Court by being slow in providing decisions and "not following correct court procedure", he said.

He had not seen his daughter for five months and it was sometimes hard to stay positive. He asked his wife six weeks ago if he could visit his daughter in Brunei over the Christmas period but had yet to receive a reply.

He hoped his experience would be a warning for others who had partners from Brunei.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last year that investigations had found no evidence Mr Soper's daughter had been detained illegally.

Claire O'Donnell, an experienced family lawyer from Auckland, also warned last year that Mr Soper would find it hugely difficult to get custody of his daughter from Brunei because that country was not a signatory to the Hague Convention.

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