The ongoing ordeal of a U.S. businessman who has been rotting in a Dubai jail for more than two years, deprived of his civil rights, should serve as a warning to Americans and Westerners alike doing business with Dubai, a constituent monarchy of United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Shahin, a U.S. citizen, is just one of many foreigners who make up 80-95% of Dubai’s 2.3 million residents. Until his arrest, Shahin was CEO of Deyaar Realty, once Dubai’s second largest real estate developer, which, like Dubai’s entire real-estate sector, was hit hard by the global economic recession.
Shahin was arrested without warrant or indictment in March 2008. Sources familiar with the case reported that he was held incommunicado for over two weeks, while his house and office were ransacked and his documents confiscated. He was deprived of food, water, sleep and access to a toilet for days. The brutality inflicted on Shahin caused his poor health to worsen, requiring him to undergo two major surgeries. After thirteen months he was charged with bribery, fraud and embezzlement
Shahin was forced to sign documents he did not understand, because of threats that his wife will be jailed and his children will be sent to a shelter. When finally “released” on bail, Shahin was promptly rearrested on newly trumped-up charges and still languishes in jail. Meanwhile, the Dubai government and its autocratic ruling family have ignored entreaties by the State Department, the U.S. Ambassador and members of Congress to discuss Shahin’s plight. A letter from Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to UAE’s Ambassador asking him to intervene to ensure Shahin’s health and safety while in prison remains unanswered nearly two years since it was delivered.
Shahin’s Kafkaesque detention is not unusual in Dubai, where a growing number of foreigners are being subjected to the country’s arcane Islamic legal codes and stripped of Western consideration for civil and human rights. The U.S. Department of State 2009 Human Rights Report for U.A.E., states: “while the constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention… there were reports that the government held persons in official custody without charge or a preliminary judicial hearing…[and] There were also reports of prison guard brutality.” Moreover, the report notes: “court decisions remained subject to review by the political leadership.”