A British man arrested and ultimately jailed on drug charges in the United Arab Emirates has told media he was tortured until he made a confession.
Ahmad Zeidan, from Reading in Berkshire, was arrested in December 2013 after driving with friends in Dubai. He was pulled over by Police, who searched the car and found 0.04g of cocaine in the glove compartment. The amount found has a street value of around £2.48, which in UAE currency works out to be 15 Dirhams.
Despite the nominal amount, which Zeidan claims was not his, a Police man allegedly took his gold chain from around his neck, wrapped it around his fist, and repeatedly punched the student in the face with it.
According to Zeidan, who was studying at Emirates Aviation College in Dubai before his arrest, he was then taken to a Police station and forced to sign papers in Arabic which confirmed the stash was his.
After the forced confession, the 20 year old then claims he was thrown into solitary confinement for eight days, with only an occasional visit from a Police officer who issued a quick beating.
He has now been moved to a secure Emirati prison where he will serve out the remainder of his nine year term, although currently the Foreign Office in the UK is attempting to become involved in the case for his release.
Relations between the UAE and the UK have historically always been relatively positive. The former British colony was handed back in 1966, despite pleas for continued naval protection from Iran which the British Empire provided to all its members.
Unfortunately the UK could no longer afford to provide its services to the Emirates and as such handed independence to the country. The most significant oil discovery in the country was made just four years later, which paved the way for the development of what was just 40 years ago, one of the most barren places on Earth.
Since then the UK has always received the support of the UAE, in its joint-US attack on terrorism post-2001 for example. The UAE was the financial focal point for the majority of funding for the Trade Centre attacks, and the UAE ensured it very swiftly gave the US and Britain their full support and co-operation as retaliatory and apparent preventative measures were taken against Afghanistan, and later, Iraq.
Recently however, there has been a spate of British arrests relating to offences which would amount to nothing on the shores of the UK, while wealthy UAE nationals were recently murdered in London in two separate incidents. Relations between the two on a non-political scale may not be the best in the current climate.
The British public are suspicious of what is viewed as a bribe-laden and extremely flawed ‘trial’ process employed by the UAE, and as such many are discouraged from travelling to the country.
Ahmad Zeidan’s arrest is just the latest in a long list of drug offences which read like a comedy script. A British man was imprisoned for four years for having 0.03g of cannabis stuck on the bottom of his shoe, others with painkillers such as codeine and flu meds have also been arrested and faced the minimum four year term for possession of drugs.
In a shocking case, a man was held after poppy seeds from a bread roll were found on his clothing –poppy seeds are used in the production of heroin.
The tough stance taken on drugs is actually something rather new and is not – as some think – the way it has always been due to traditional Sharia Law. Just 20 years ago, heroin use in the UAE was wide-spread and there for all to see, particularly in the older areas of Dubai.
Despite the UAE’s desire to become a ‘tourist hotspot’ by 2020 – and their status as the most liberal country in the Gulf – it is cases like this, combined with the recent arrest of members of the Police force for corruption, not to mention the human rights issues surrounding construction workers, that may prove a significant obstacle in their quest to appeal to more people. As far as image on worldwide scale goes, the UAE has much work to do.