Reading man asks Cameron to bring him home from Gulf two years after ‘stitch-up’ Arabic cocaine admission
A BRITISH student locked up in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after allegedly being tortured into admitting drugs charges has made a fresh plea to the government for his release.
Ahmad Zeidan, 22, has been imprisoned for almost two years after police in the Emirate of Sharjah found 0.04g of cocaine — with a street value of around £3 — in the glovebox of a car in which he was a passenger.
He claims that, over the course of a week, he was hooded, stripped, kept in solitary confinement for two days, beaten and threatened with rape.
Mr Zeidan, from Reading, Berkshire, was then forced to sign a “confession” in Arabic — a language he cannot read — and was never offered the services of an interpreter.
Although he always maintained that the drugs were not his, he was sentenced last summer to nine years in Sharjah Central Jail.
“His brutal torture and the use of a bogus ‘confession’ — signed in a language he doesn’t read or write — are more than enough reason for the British government to request his release,” said human rights charity Reprieve.
“It is deeply disappointing that ministers have not yet done this.”
Mr Zeidan is the only British national in the prison, as all of his six co-defendants were either pardoned or acquitted.
His appeal comes days after Irish 17-year-old Ibrahim Halawa, who has been held in an Egyptian prison for two years after attending a protest in Cairo, claimed he was beaten while awaiting a mass trial in which he will be tried as an adult.
Mr Halawa and 494 other prisoners face the death penalty if convicted.
Mr Zeidan was studying at the Emirates Aviation College in Dubai when he was arrested.Reprieve death penalty team leader Maya Foa said he suffered a “staggering miscarriage of justice” and only “narrowly missed a death sentence.”
She urged the British government to call for an end to his “nightmarish ordeal.”
Mr Zeidan’s family have also twice appealed for the government to formally petition for him to be released since his arrest in December 2013. Police in the UAE have previously denied claims of torture, but Mr Zeidan said he had suffered “a mountain of pain” with seizures and disturbing flashbacks waking him in shock during the night.
“I’m not coping,” he said. “I feel like I am going to implode. I’m just holding on to a thin line of something and I feel it’s going to run out very soon.”
He is now pleading with ministers at home to support his request to be freed in a pardon scheduled for September.
“Do (the British government) not care about me or the form of discrimination I’m being made to go through?” he asked.
“Get me out of what I’m going through.”
The Foreign Office said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on a continuing legal process, but a spokeswoman confirmed that it had been in regular contact with Mr Zeidan and his family to “provide assistance,” including consular visits to check on his welfare.
“We take allegations of mistreatment extremely seriously and have raised this with the UAE authorities,” she said.