Page last updated at 14:36 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Morocco Olympic champion's children 'not abducted'

Khalid Skah at a demonstration against the "abduction" of his children, Rabat, August 2009
Khalid Skah said the children had been manipulated by their mother

The children of a Moroccan Olympic champion say they fled from his house and were smuggled out of the country with the help of Norwegian diplomats.

The case has sparked an international row, with Morocco demanding that Norway put its diplomats on trial.

The children of Khalid Skah, who won the 10,000m gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, have gone on Norwegian TV to say they left of their own free will.

Mr Skah says they were kidnapped but Norway denies it was directly involved.

Tarik, who is 13, and Selma, 16, told the Norwegian news channel TV2 Nyhetskanalen they ran away from their father's house, in July 2009, after he became increasingly strict and locked them in their rooms.

They contacted their Norwegian mother, who had come to Morocco with the family in 2006, but left in 2007 when the relationship broke down.

She got in touch the Norwegian embassy, which arranged for the children to be picked up from the streets of the capital, Rabat, and taken to the Norwegian ambassador's residence, where they stayed until they could be smuggled out of the country on a yacht bound for Spain.

"It was our choice to flee," Tarik said.

"We weren't allowed to live a normal life, we weren't allowed to go to school," said Selma.

'Off-duty' commandos

Mr Skah, contacted in Rabat by the French news agency AFP, accused the Norwegian embassy of "kidnapping" his children and helping his estranged wife, Anne Cecilie Hopstock, take them out of the country "illegally".

Khalid Skah wins Olympic gold medal, Barcelona 1992
Skah won gold in controversial circumstances in 1992

He deplored the fact that they had appeared on television, saying they had been "manipulated by the Norwegian government and their mother".

Norway admitted on Monday that one of its diplomats had helped hide the children, and two members of its special forces had taken them out of Morocco.

But it said the two commandos were "off-duty", and on holiday at the time, and denied that Norway was involved directly in the smuggling.

Morocco has accused Norwegian officials of breaking the Vienna Convention on diplomatic activity.

Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri, said: "The Norwegian embassy gave itself the right to... mete out its own justice on the territory of a sovereign state in a private affair and beyond all rules and ethics."

He said all the diplomats involved must be put on trial.

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