British cancer-sufferer's health deteriorates while jailed in Dubai for carrying prescription anti-depressants

British cancer-sufferer's health deteriorates while jailed in Dubai for carrying prescription anti-depressants
Perry Coppins is suffering from both untreated mental health problems and prostate cancer, as he faces up to four years in prison for carrying a personal supply of anti-depressants.
3 min read
07 January, 2018
Coppins was detained at Fujairah, UAE, for carrying a six-month supply of vital medication [Getty]
A British man has been denied potentially life-saving cancer treatment while being detained in Dubai for carrying anti-depressants for which he had a prescription, according to Emirati human rights group Detained in Dubai.

Perry Coppins, from Nottingham, has so far spent five weeks in a Dubai jail after being apprehended at Fujairah seaport for carrying prescription anti-depressants temazepam, clonazepam and citalopram, which are legal in the United Arab Emirates.

The 61-year-old maritime security officer, who has suffered from anxiety for 21 years, was stopped by a customs officer and accused of carrying "too many pills", according to reports, and may face up to four years behind bars.

It is reported, however, that he was carrying enough medication for his six-month trip, as part of his job as sea-faring job.

Deprived of appropriate medication for his mental health issues, Coppins' "psychological condition [has] deteriorated rapidly" and he has suffered "severe withdrawal" symptoms, such "intense pain, bouts of blindness and uncontrollable sweating", as well as hallucinations and weight loss, the rights organisation stated. 

The father-of-three has also reportedly been denied urgent treatment for aggressive prostate cancer, according to the organisation.

"Perry needs urgent treatment for his prostate cancer," said Radha Stirling, Detained in Dubai’s chief executive. "To deny him this in a timely fashion is a gross violation of his human rights. We hope that the UAE will show compassion to Perry and his children, and release him immediately, so that he can return home for the medical treatment he needs."

Coppins is due to stand trial on 15th January.
Not being allowed his cancer treatment is like giving him a death sentence
"It’s so cruel. Nobody should be treated like this. He is not a young man and he needs medical help to cope with his anxiety," said Coppins' 24-year-old daughter Pia, who lives in London. 

"Not being allowed his cancer treatment is like giving him a death sentence. Does human life mean nothing to those people?"

Coppins' ex-wife Lesley has also said in a statement, "Perry and I split up, but he is a good man who loves his kids. I really hope the Dubai authorities decide to do the humane thing and let him free. Those medicines are taken by millions of people. He needs them to function."

Radha Stirling outlined the oft precarious and unpredictable customs process in the Emirates. "UAE laws on medicines are often vague and frontline law enforcement officials are frequently unaware of exactly what the rules permit or prohibit, so they make uneducated and arbitrary judgment calls."

"In fact the three medications which Perry possessed are perfectly legal in the UAE, provided the patient has prescription documentation, which Perry has. The initial mistake of the customs officer should never have escalated into criminal charges, but this reveals the lack of professionalism within the legal system, and what appears to be the capriciousness of the Public Prosecutor’s office," she added, in an attack on the Emirati judicial system.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has confirmed their involvement in the case, stating, "We have been assisting a British man since his arrest in Dubai in November and are in contact with the UAE authorities."

The UAE has a zero-tolerance policy on banned substances, and notoriously carries out stringent security checks at air and sea ports.

The latest saga follows a string of bizarre arrests of British citizens in the UAE. 

Last year, 27-year-old Brit Jamie Harron was jailed for 'public indecency' charges after unintentionally touching a man's hip in a Dubai bar.

Harron was later pardoned and allowed back to the UK, after spending three months behind bars. 

According to the CEO of Detained in Dubai, Harron's release was personally ordered by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.

It is not clear whether such action is being taken in the case of Coppins, although the British government has come under fire for continuing to prioritise trade with UAE over reprimanding its human rights record.