Lawyers for Hasnain Ali, a British citizen on trial for drug offences in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have today (25 March) argued for his acquittal after an ordeal that has included torture, illegal police conduct, and a lack of evidence. Mr Ali faces a potential death sentence if convicted in the Dubai court after today’s closing arguments.
Mr Ali, a Londoner who once worked as a bodyguard in the UAE, was arrested in May 2013 while on holiday in Dubai and held incommunicado for several days. During his detention, he was repeatedly beaten and kicked, and threatened with tasers, firearms, and the prospect of sexual assault. As a result of his torture, Mr Ali signed a 'confession' in Arabic, a language he cannot read, related to charges of possessing and selling drugs. This 'confession' is now being used as evidence against him at trial.
At a hearing on 16 March, two witnesses gave evidence in support of Mr Ali’s allegations of torture. His lawyers have argued that these allegations, along with other wide-ranging procedural failures and illegal conduct by the police and the lack of evidence untainted by such errors, should lead to his acquittal.
The prosecution is relying on an investigation it says it has made into Mr Ali’s torture, which found no evidence to substantiate his claims. Yet that investigation was marred by serious shortcomings, including a failure to consult Mr Ali’s lawyers, a lack of independent witness statements, and the use of a medical exam on Mr Ali that was condemned by experts as failing to meet minimum international standards.
The prosecution’s claims mark the latest in a series of faulty investigations by the Emirati police and prosecution. Claims of torture raised by British tourists Grant Cameron, Karl Williams, and Suneet Jeerh following their arrest in July 2012 met with a similar response until the intervention of Prime Minister David Cameron.
Kate Higham of the legal charity Reprieve, which is supporting Mr Ali’s case, said: “The Emirati authorities have repeatedly been willing to turn a blind eye to serious misconduct by the police and prosecution. It is our sincere hope that in this case, the court will give a fair hearing to the clear evidence of torture and procedural wrongdoing that has caused Mr Ali such suffering. The UAE needs to start taking responsibility for the actions of its police and public prosecutors, while the UK must do everything in its power to protect Brits from these types of abuses.”