Europe

France holds Olympic champion Khalid Skah in custody row

Khalid Skah in 2010
Image caption Khalid Skah has accused Norway of smuggling his children out of Morocco illegally

A Moroccan Olympic champion who claims his children were abducted by Norwegian agents has been arrested in France.

Khalid Skah, who won the 10,000m at the 1992 Barcelona Games, was held at Orly airport in Paris, after being sought by Norway for alleged abduction.

For years he has fought a bitter custody battle for his two children with his Norwegian wife.

It has escalated to a diplomatic row, after Norway admitted playing a part in getting the children out of Morocco.

Mr Skah confirmed his own arrest on social media.

His Norwegian lawyer, Brynjar Meling, says Mr Skah has asked for medical attention but is willing to travel to Norway, and is keen to explain his side of the story.

'Escaped by yacht'

Mr Skah has previously accused the Norwegian embassy in the Moroccan capital Rabat of "kidnapping" his children and helping his estranged wife, Anne Cecilie Hopstock, take them out of the country "illegally".

Ms Hopstock had gone to Morocco with the family in 2006, but left in 2007 when her relationship with Mr Skah broke down.

The children, Tarik and Selma, remained in Morocco, but vanished from the family home in 2009 and in 2010 appeared on Norwegian television.

The teenagers described how they ran away from their father's house after he became increasingly strict and locked them in their rooms.

They contacted their Norwegian mother, who got in touch the Norwegian embassy in Rabat.

Diplomats arranged for the children to be picked up from the streets of the city 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.

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

Mr Skah 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, and called for them to be put on trial.

Both Mr Skah and Ms Hopstock have been awarded custody of the children in their respective countries - though they are now reported to be young adults.

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