Authorities in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), yesterday sought to block lawyers for a British student from accessing evidence of his torture, in contravention of international law.
Ahmad Zeidan, from Berkshire, has been held in prison since his arrest by Sharjah’s police in December 2013. Following mistreatment by the police, including beatings and threats of sexual assault, Mr Zeidan signed documents in Arabic – a language he cannot read – which are now being used against him at his trial on drugs charges. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20437)
The legal charity Reprieve says the authorities yesterday refused the latest of several requests by Mr Zeidan’s lawyers for the public prosecution to release evidence that could support his defence, acquired through an ‘investigation’ by the prosecution that followed his complaints of torture.
Article 15 of the Convention against Torture, to which the UAE is a signatory, says that States must prevent evidence obtained through torture from being relied upon in legal proceedings. However, the prosecution’s refusal to release information about Mr Zeidan’s torture will seriously limit his lawyers’ ability to raise it at trial.
Three of the police officers who tortured Mr Zeidan appeared as witnesses at yesterday’s hearing, but refused on grounds of ‘police secrecy’ to answer questions from the defence, including whether they had a valid warrant to arrest him.
Kate Higham, an investigator at l Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Zeidan, said: “It’s increasingly clear that this trial process is a sham. The calling of Mr Zeidan’s torturers as witnesses, the court’s concessions to ‘police secrecy’, and the refusal to make evidence of his torture available can be seen as a serious attempt to block his proper defence at trial. The UAE must release the information requested by his defence lawyers as soon as possible, in accordance with their obligations under international law. The UK government must act now to ensure that Mr Zeidan’s right to a proper legal defence is upheld.”