Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the UK will continue to raise with United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities the case of a British student who was tortured by police into signing a confession to drugs offences.
Ahmad Zeidan, from Berkshire, was arrested by local police in Sharjah, near Dubai, in December 2013 and held incommunicado for over a week, during which time he was hooded, beaten, and threatened with sexual assault. Mr Zeidan was also forced to sign documents in Arabic – a language he cannot read – which were subsequently used by prosecutors as a central piece of ‘evidence’ at his trial. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20450)
In a letter responding to concerns raised by legal charity Reprieve, which is supporting Mr Zeidan, David Cameron has written that the Government takes such allegations “extremely seriously,” and that they “should be independently and transparently investigated.”
In June this year, Mr Zeidan was sentenced to nine years in Sharjah’s prison, having initially faced a potential death sentence. At an appeal hearing today (7 August), the public prosecution will request an even harsher sentence.
In his letter, received by Reprieve in July, Mr Cameron states that “[British] officials have recently made clear the importance of expediting the investigation into the allegations of mistreatment and asked the UAE to bring these to a conclusion before the appeal hearing”.
However, there has been no indication that this has taken place, and no information regarding the investigation has been provided to Mr Zeidan, his lawyers, or Reprieve.
In a phone interview on 5 August, Mr Zeidan told BBC 5 Live how he was beaten by Sharjah police who then “forcefully made me take off all my clothes… [and said] if you don’t confess to possessing the narcotics, we will rape you”.
Commenting, Maya Foa said: “The Prime Minister’s comments regarding how seriously Britain takes the issue of police torture in the UAE are welcome, but it is crucial that the UK continues to raise the case of Mr Zeidan at the highest possible level. Police torture in the UAE has reached epidemic levels, with numerous Brits and people of all nationalities facing brutal treatment in order to extract bogus ‘confessions.’ The UAE must release Mr Zeidan, and put a stop to the brutal police practices to which he and so many others have been subjected.”