Berkshire

Ahmad Zeidan 'on hunger strike' in UAE jail, says father

Zeidan Image copyright Reprieve
Image caption Police found 0.04 grams of cocaine inside the vehicle in which Ahmad Zeidan was travelling

A student jailed in Dubai has gone on hunger strike in protest over the UK government's "lack of action" in calling for him to be pardoned, says his father.

Ahmad Zeidan was jailed for nine years in 2014 for drug possession, but says he was tortured to admit the charge.

Manal Zeidan says his son is treated like a "third-class citizen" because he does not have "an Anglo-Saxon name".

The Foreign Office said it continued "to assist Mr Zeidan", of Reading.

A spokeswoman said: "We continue to assist a British man who was arrested in the UAE in December 2013. Then Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood raised the case with his opposite number in 2016 and we continue to regularly raise this case with the UAE government.

"We cannot interfere in another country's judicial system just as we would not allow another country to interfere in ours."

In 2013 Zeidan, a student at the Emirates Aviation College in Dubai, was part of a group who had accepted a ride in a friend's car when police stopped them and found 0.04 grams of cocaine, worth about £3, in the vehicle.

The other men were given pardons or were acquitted but Zeidan, the only British citizen, was jailed.

Image copyright Zeidan Family
Image caption Zeidan's case was not deemed to meet the threshold for a clemency request, a Foreign Office email seen by the BBC states

"He is starting a hunger strike to protest the lack of action by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to raise a request for a pardon", Mr Zeidan told BBC Radio Berkshire.

"The UK government has previously requested people's release at the highest level.

"He feels he is being treated as a third class citizen for no reason other than the fact he does not have an Anglo Saxon name".

A bilateral meeting between the British and UAE governments took place in March 2016 after Zeidan's case was raised in parliament by Reading West MP Alok Sharma.

But in an email seen by the BBC, a Foreign Office caseworker told his father that during the meeting "it was decided that Ahmad's case did not reach the threshold for Her Majesty's Government to support a clemency request".

This suggests the Foreign Office has made no formal request for a pardon.

'Lost his future'

Mr Zeidan claims his son was left in solitary confinement in prison for complaining about his conditions, and talking to the British Embassy.

"He's in a state of trauma, he's got severe depression," he said. "He was in the prime of his life as a student, he was in the middle of his studies, and looking forward to a career in aviation.

"He has lost his future".

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it would not comment on consular cases and cannot confirm or deny the hunger strike claim being made by Zeidan's family.

The UAE's ambassador to the UK said the country "has the strongest rule of law of any country in the region, and among the strongest in the world."

Amb. Sulaiman Al Mazroui added: "Abuse of detainees is a crime and any and all allegations of abuse formally registered with the appropriate authorities are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated".

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