Detained in Dubai takes on case of German national, sentenced to life in Emirates jail
German citizen Dieter Kellouche was good friends with a UAE government official and tribal leader, but upset him and is now serving a life sentence.
Dieter, 42, was friends with a powerful Emirati sheikh called Mohammed Sultan Bin Huwaiden Al Ketbi (not to be confused with the war martyr with a similar name). They were introduced by a friend who brought the sheikh and his wife to a party at Dieter’s house. The Sheikh had some questions which the German electrical engineer from Coburg was able to answer, according to Dieter's brother, Thomas.
"My brother became friends with Al Ketbi," explains Thomas. "Al Ketbi is a cousin of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. He was also (when Dieter knew him) the head of Al-Dhaid City, so he is a very important man. He introduced Dieter around to other important people in the UAE and the two friends even travelled together to China and Italy on business.
"My brother left Dubai and they stayed in contact via WhatsApp etc. They gradually lost touch but then 3 years ago, 14th August 2017, Dieter was passing through Dubai and decided to visit several old friends. Al Ketbi was first on the list.
"Dieter drove to Al Ketbi's street and saw his friend leaving his house. Dieter approached him on foot, calling out 'hello.' Al Ketbi didn't recognise him for some reason and got very angry.
"Dieter drove to Al Ketbi's street and saw him leaving his house. Dieter approached him on foot, calling out 'hello.' Al Ketbi didn't recognise him for some reason and got very angry. "Dieter was shocked and tried to tell the Sheikh who he is, but the Sheikh got madder and madder. My poor brother didn't know what was going on and approached the Sheikh closer in the hope he would be recognised. The Sheikh hit Dieter, who tried to defend himself and stave off the blows. The Sheikh dragged him to the ground in a brawl but after a while realised who Dieter was, and apologised.
"Apparently, unluckily for my brother, the Sheikh's family saw the brawl and were talking about it, and this embarrassed Al Ketbi, so he went to the police and had my brother arrested, I believe to save his own embarrassment. He claimed that Dieter stole his wallet and tried to kidnap him. Both emphatically not true. My brother is the gentlest man you ever met. He was completely upset at the attack. Later, the Sheikh's family told me that he is on some medications for illness that can make him act oddly.
"My poor brother was locked up in jail with a life sentence.
“Initially he was held with no charge, but after several months of pressure from the German embassy the Sheikh Al Ketbi charged Dieter with kidnapping and stealing his wallet. Neither of which happened.
“On the 17th November 2017 the judge conducted a show trial in Arabic, which my brother doesn’t understand, and sentenced Dieter to life in prison. Dieter only found out his sentence from a policeman taking him to jail. He was never questioned about the offence, never signed anything, and never pleaded innocent or guilty.
“He has been jailed for 3 years now. We have been begging the Sheikh to release him so he can try to rebuild his life.
“At one point, Sheikh Al Ketbi said that he had ‘forgiven’ Dieter and that he would let him be freed if Dieter gave him AED 130,000 (£26,780). This figure was explained as AED 30,000 for the wallet and AED 100,000 which was the money inside. Dieter of course never stole any wallet, but his family helped him get this sum to the Sheikh, believing that was the price of his freedom.
“The Sheikh had been very sneaky and secretly opened yet another case against Dieter for ‘stealing money’. When he received the AED 130,000, the Sheikh just closed this new case and left Dieter in jail on the other two cases. My brother was heartbroken.
“12 times Dieter has been to court since then on various stages of appeal. The judge says ‘no’ without even considering the case. This is because the Sheikh is such a powerful man.
“My brother’s life is ruined. His wife can not cope with her husband being in jail for life and he believes she will leave him.
“People have to know that you are not safe in the UAE. Those people do not even consider foreigners to be human. My brother’s life is destroyed, and for what? Because a man was embarrassed and wanted to hide his shame?”
Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai, who is representing Dieter’s family said “The prevalence of prominent Emiratis abusing foreign nationals is not only frequent, but it’s seriously damaging to the reputation of the UAE. No investor or expat can feel safe in a country where they can be jailed at the whim of locals who clearly dominate the judicial system in the country and where no evidence of a crime is required to jail someone.
“Artur Ligeska wrote a book outlining his wrongful imprisonment, torture and human rights abuses endured at the command of an Abu Dhabi sheikh, and ruler Sheikh Saud, has been accused of serious human rights violations against foreign nationals for his own political gain. The United Arab Emirates is investing in legal reforms and public relations efforts to attract foreign investors, expats and tourists, but can not succeed while these abuses continue. The UAE should immediately take steps to intervene in Dieter’s case. Dieter has been imprisoned, apparently with zero evidence of wrongdoing save for the word of a sheikh. The German authorities are turning a blind eye to abuses against their citizens and are failing to sufficiently warn nationals of the risks of visiting or living in the Emirates. This has to stop.”