Advocates reject Lebanese MFA's statement on suspicious death in UAE prison

Advocates reject Lebanese MFA's statement on suspicious death in UAE prison
Sources close to the Lebanese man who died in a UAE prison said that they still believe torture was the cause of death.
3 min read
16 May, 2023
There are 14 Lebanese known to be currently detained in UAE prisons. Advocates say they have all undergone mistreatment while in detention. [Getty]

Doubt has been cast on the Lebanese state's explanation that Ghazi Ezzedine died from a heart attack in a UAE prison, as sources close to Ezzedine told The New Arab that they still believe torture was the cause of death.

Ezzedine died in a UAE prison on 4 May after he was arrested among nine other men from southern Lebanon two months earlier, with no charges yet detailed against them.

Authorities would only allow Ezzedine's son to see his face and did not let the family repatriate his remains, burying Ezzedine in the UAE immediately after his body was identified.

The suspicious circumstances of Ezzedine's death and burial prompted rights organisations such as Amnesty International to request an "independent and transparent" investigation into his case.

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The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that Ezzedine died of a heart attack and had met with its Emirati counterparts to discuss the case.

"These are all lies from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They are scared of losing their jobs. They didn’t talk about Ghazi for the two months of his detention, why say anything now?" a source close to Ezzedine told TNA.

The source added that no one from the Lebanese state had visited or called Ezzedine's relatives since the announcement of his death last Thursday.

The Foreign Ministry statement said that the Lebanese Ambassador to the UAE received a letter from Ezzedine's family which confirmed he had died of a heart attack and was buried in line with the family's wishes.

The source objected to the letter, saying that they suspect the relatives of Ezzedine who remain in the UAE were under pressure to confirm the state's narrative surrounding his death.

"We can't reach Ezzedine's two brothers [in the UAE]. There's pressure on them. If he really died from a heart attack, hand over the corpse so it can be checked," the source said.

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Press spokespeople did not respond to TNA's repeated request for comment on Ezzedine's case.

Dozens of protesters demonstrated outside the Lebanese prime minister's office on Monday for the release of the 14 Lebanese detained in UAE prisons.

Abu Fadl Shoumann, the leader of a group advocating for Lebanese detainees, told TNA that the experience of torture in UAE prisons was nearly universal among Lebanese detainees.

He further rejected the Lebanese Ministry's Statement on Saturday, saying, "The wife of Ezzedine signed off on his burial in the UAE under duress."

The UN Committee Against Torture said in July 2022 that "reports received detail a pattern of torture and ill-treatment against human rights defenders and persons accused of offences against state security" in the UAE.