British Student Ahmad Zeidan Released from Prison in the UAE
Ahmad Zeidan, a British student formerly from Reading, has been freed after serving more than three years in prison in the United Arab Emirates.
Zeidan, now 23, was detained in 2014 after 0.04 grams of cocaine was found in the car he was travelling in. Although the locals he was with in the vehicle, including the driver, all received a pardon, Zeidan was given a nine year prison sentence.
The British student from Reading alleged that he was tortured by UAE security officials into admitting drugs charges and forced to sign a confession in Arabic, a language he didn't understand.
After Ahmad's father enlisted the help of human rights charity Reprieve and appealed to the UK Foreign Office for intervention into his sons case, a bilateral meeting was set up between the UAE and Britain in March 2016.
This came to little avail and so Zaidan engaged in a three day hunger strike demanding a royal pardon, which was denied.
However on October 4 of this year, after a high court appeal, Zaidan's sentence was reduced from nine to seven years. Shortly afterwards his sentence was cut further to five years. Ahmad had already served most of this sentence and so in light of this, the UAE authorities stated that they would release the British student on payment of a £4,000 fine. After this was raised by Ahmad's family in Reading, he was released immediately by the authorities.
Ahmad has now left the UAE and is looking to restart his education after taking some time to recover from his “ordeal” in the Emirates. According to his father Monal Zeidan, Ahmad "is still fragile and needs rest and recuperation to overcome past seizures he suffered while in captivity,"
"Nothing can compensate for the material and emotional loss that he has endured.", he added.
Zeidan's father credited the media coverage surrounding his son's case as "the only ray of light that kept both his story and motivation alive while he was being held prisoner for years".
He said of Ahmad's release: “We are overjoyed he is finally free and still can't believe it's real”
ICFUAE statement on Ahmad Zeidan's release:
“Whilst we welcome the release of Ahmad Zeidan, we urgently call upon the Emirati authorities to institute a judicial system that is in line with internationally recognised legal standards.
It is imperative that Zeidan's case be understood within a wider climate of repression inside the country, where in recent years there have been numerous cases of both Emirati's and non-Emirati's being subjected to all manner of mistreatment, including torture, by the UAE authorities.
In light of this case and others, it is crucial that the British government do more to inform its citizens of the real risks and dangers of travelling to the UAE.”
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