UK accused of 'inertia' after Dubai 'wrongfully detains' British war veteran on drug charges

UK accused of 'inertia' after Dubai 'wrongfully detains' British war veteran on drug charges
The UK is being accused of collusion with the UAE for inaction over the imprisonment of Andrew Neal, detained in Dubai for five months despite no evidence of any wrongdoing.
3 min read
06 March, 2019
Neal suffers from PTSD after serving in the army for 24 years [Detained in Dubai]

Concerns are being raised about a British man jailed in Dubai on drugs charges "without evidence" five months ago, according to UK-based legal advocacy organisation Detained in Dubai.

War veteran Andrew Neal, 44, was arrested by Emirati authorities on 4 October 2018 and accused of selling drugs. The father-of-two suffers from PTSD after having undertaken tours of Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan during his 24-years of service as a dog handler in the British army.

Detained in Dubai insist that Neal, who relocated to the UAE in 2015, has been "wrongfully detained" by the Emiratis, and despite prosecutors recognising his innocence, they are keeping him behind bars while the lead prosecutor seeks promotion.

Police reportedly searched Neal's home, phone and bank accounts, finding nothing to support the allegations of drug dealing. According to the group, the case was solely based on a witness confession extracted under duress, which has since been retracted.

As is often the case in the UAE, Neal has had no hearing or trial, and remains in Dubai central prison despite multiple promises of his release. A decision on his fate will reportedly be released on Thursday.

Radha Stirling, the director of Detained in Dubai, has been vocal in the campaign for his release.

In a statement released this week, she said: "There is no evidence against him. Even the prosecutor admits this to be the case."

A series of missteps in the process has led to Neal's arrest, according to Stirling. "The trouble appears to be that the police have let the actual criminals go, allegedly a Filipino woman and associate who have left the country. Now it seems that the prosecutor is determined to punish somebody, even if it is not the real criminals."

"The flaws in the UAE justice system mean that Andy is in real danger of serving years in a Dubai jail for a crime that everyone involved is aware he did not commit," she added.

The group recently warned against visiting the UAE on holiday, telling The New Arab that the country was "no longer safe for tourists", after a number of foreign visitors were detained for crimes, they insist, they didn't commit.

It is no secret that conditions in Emirati jails are punishing, with rampant torture allegedly used against inmates.

Neal's family, represented by Detained in Dubai, have blasted the lack of action from British authorities in what they call an "outrage" to British citizens who can't rely on their governments to support them in cases of injustice.

The news comes as revelations show that a memorandum of understanding was passed between UK and UAE, when the British government pledged to help improve the Emirates' public image and media effectiveness. The memo was allegedly signed while Matthew Hedges, a British PhD student, was being detained in Dubai on spying charges.

Read more: Detained in Dubai: UAE no longer safe for tourists

The stated objective of the memorandum is to "improve the perception of public services for the general public, in Dubai and the United Kingdom".  

However, the director of Detained in Dubai pointed out that the understanding goes further than this.

"There is clearly an aim of improving the way the British people perceive the UAE," she said in a statement.

Stirling blasted the UK government for their "shameful inertia" over Neal's case, saying that it should be "a warning to all British citizens to avoid Dubai".

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