A British student who was tortured into ‘confessing’ to drugs charges in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has spoken out about his ordeal.
Ahmad Zeidan, a 21-year-old from Berkshire, was arrested by local police in December 2013 and held incommunicado for several days, 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 that ended with his being sentenced to nine years in Sharjah prison, UAE.
The judge and prosecutors pledged to investigate Mr Zeidan’s torture after a complaint by the British government, but subsequently blocked his lawyers from seeing evidence of the abuse.
Speaking from the prison in an interview broadcast today, Mr Zeidan told BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat about his arrest and torture, saying that police “just arrested me [and started] beating me.
“They then took us to a police station and forced me to sign papers in Arabic.
“They kept me in a solitary cell for eight days – for eight days, my family didn’t know where I was. They would repeatedly just randomly come in the cell and beat me.”
Asked about conditions at Sharjah prison, Mr Zeidan said: “I’m in a cell most of the whole day, with eleven other prisoners — we’re allowed to go out once a week only.”
Legal charity Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Zeidan, has uncovered evidence of a systematic pattern of torture in UAE prisons. A dossier submitted last week to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture on behalf of 19 prisoners details a pattern of abuse that includes hooding, beatings, threats of rape, and extended periods of solitary confinement.
Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “Hearing Ahmad’s words from the prison today, it’s clear that he’s been through a terrifying ordeal that has included torture and a forced confession — sadly all too common in the UAE. The authorities must investigate the deeply troubling circumstances of Ahmad’s arrest and torture, and take steps to comply with its international obligations so others like him don’t suffer the same fate.”