Government did not ask United Arab Emirates for a pardon
THE government refused to request a pardon for 22-year-old British student Ahmad Zeidan, who has allegedly been tortured into admitting drugs charges in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a human rights charity said yesterday.
Mr Zeidan has been locked up for nearly two years, but his case was not raised during Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi last month, just before 900 pardons across the UAE were announced, Reprieve said.
He alleges that, in the course of a week, he was hooded, stripped, kept in solitary confinement for two days, beaten and threatened with rape before being forced to sign a “confession” in Arabic, which he cannot read or write.
Reprieve death penalty team leader Maya Foa said Mr Zeidan had suffered a “staggering miscarriage of justice” and urged the government to help him end the “nightmarish ordeal.”
The charity has received an email from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) admitting that it had not sent a letter in support of a pardon scheduled for September, despite it being official policy to do this for British nationals.
British consular staff in UAE have forwarded letters from Mr Zeidan’s father appealing for clemency to the ruler’s court in the emirate of Sharjah and to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa and Interior Minister Sheikh Saif bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi, the FCO email added.
The FCO, when contacted by the Star, did not comment on why it has not supported the pardon request.
Mr Zeidan, of Reading in Berkshire, was studying at the Emirates Aviation College in Dubai when he was arrested in December 2013.
Police found 0.04g of cocaine — with a street value of around £3 — in the glove compartment of a car in which he was a passenger.
He always maintained that the drugs were not his, but he was sentenced to nine years in prison last summer. His six non-British co-defendants have been released. He also “narrowly missed a death sentence,” Reprieve said.
His family have twice called on the government to formally petition for his release.
Mr Zeidan, who is being held in Sharjah Central Jail, said he has suffered “a mountain of pain,” with seizures and disturbing flashbacks waking him during the night.
He said: “I’m not coping. I feel like I am going to self-implode. I’m just holding onto a thin line of something and I feel it’s going to run out very soon.”