Prime Minister David Cameron is being urged to intervene to protect a British student who was tortured into ‘confessing’ to drugs charges in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Ahmad Zeidan, a 21-year-old from Berkshire, was arrested by local police in Sharjah in December 2013 and held incommunicado for over a week, during which time he was hooded, beaten, and threatened with rape. Mr Zeidan was also forced to sign documents in Arabic — a language he cannot read — which were subsequently used against him in a flawed trial process. Last month he was sentenced to nine years in Sharjah prison.
Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at legal charity Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Zeidan, has written to the Prime Minister ahead of an appeal hearing later this month where the prosecution is expected to seek a harsher sentence. The letter says: “It is a scandal that he [Mr Zeidan] has been convicted to a lengthy prison sentence on the basis of a ‘confession’ which was effectively beaten out of him. In addition, we note with concern that the prosecution has appealed the case and are once again seeking to increase the penalty Mr Zeidan will ultimately receive.”
In July 2013, three British nationals who were tortured and imprisoned in Dubai on similar charges were pardoned after Mr Cameron raised their case directly with UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed.
Reprieve has uncovered evidence of a systematic pattern of torture in UAE prisons. A dossier submitted last month to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture details a pattern of abuse that includes hooding, beatings, threats of rape, and extended periods of solitary confinement.
Speaking to BBC radio from the prison in an interview broadcast last week, Mr Zeidan described his arrest and torture, saying: “They just arrested me [and started] beating me… for eight days, my family didn’t know where I was.”
Commenting, Maya Foa said: “Ahmad has been through a terrifying ordeal, including being tortured into signing a false confession — this alone should be enough for his release. The Prime Minister must intervene as soon as possible to secure justice for him before it’s too late, and tell the UAE to investigate its endemic torture problem.”