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  • Writer's pictureDue Process International

Dubai Prisoners Slam Foreign Office

FCDO under fire by MP's and prisoner families over lack of support for Brits and failure to warn of real risks of travel to the UAE and gulf countries

Politicians and families put FCDO under fire in tomorrow's debate.

Billy Hood’s heartbroken mother, Breda Guckion, has expressed her disdain that the British Foreign Office has done “next to nothing ”to help her son who was sentenced to 25 years over CBD oil left in his car by a visiting friend in Dubai. The courts have since agreed he did not traffic nor sell the CBD vape oil but only reduced his sentence to ten years.

A parliamentary debate is scheduled for tomorrow to discuss the FCDO’s lack of support towards British citizens and the need to increase travel warnings which are completely insufficient.

“I encouraged Billy to go to Dubai", recalls Breda, “we read the travel warnings and decided it was safe so long as you follow the law. I wish I had never told him to go and advance his career there. If the FCDO’s travel warnings had been honest, I don’t think he would ever have gone”, Breda reflected. “Had we known that the British courts deny extraditions because of human rights violations and forced confessions, that would have been a red flag to us.

“The FCDO does not warn you can be charged without evidence, forced to confess, beaten in detention or even killed. It does not tell you that you can be arbitrarily detained and it can take years to be exonerated of the false allegations against you. They don’t warn you that the courts convict you in 15 minute trials and usually side with the prosecution. They don’t warn you of the police and lawyer corruption. They don’t warn you that the British government won’t lift a finger to help you, even if it is a clear case of injustice or human rights violations.

“If the FCDO had been honest, Billy wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. Detained in Dubai warned the FCDO years ago that they needed to increase their travel warnings and they did nothing. Radha offered to help them and she offered to help Dubai.

“Perhaps Billy’s visitor would never have brought his CBD vape oil into the country and none of this would have happened. They could even go a step further and hand this information out at airports. A lot of people have been arrested for accidentally taking something to Dubai like a poppyseed or prescription medicine.

“I hold the FCDO fully responsible for failing to properly warn citizens of the unseen risks of visiting Dubai. They are the reason Billy is in jail. If the FCDO stood up for their citizens, the UAE would stop treating them that way. We’ve already seen a death in custody. What more does it take? How many citizens have been held in obscene conditions because they didn’t realise Dubai was such a backwards city? It looks great in the brochures, really modern. No wonder Billy and other Brits want to move there, because they are not told any better. They are not told that they can be arrested and dragged through a mediaeval legal system, even if they are law abiding and culturally aware.

“I am so grateful that parliamentarians are beginning to see that the FCDO needs to change. This debate on Thursday is a great step and I’m so grateful to Radha Stirling, Hannah Bardell, MP and everyone else who is supporting it. We will continue to lobby the FCDO and Boris Johnson to help Billy and the other British citizens facing injustice and inhumane conditions abroad”.

Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai, first raised the issue of insufficient travel warnings in 2017 when Jamie Harron was released. She even suggested that the FCDO had breached its duty of care. In fact, a prominent QC has advised that “the FCDO could face legal action from victims like Billy Hood and that they certainly have a case”.

Stirling added “It is to the point where we must advise clients that they have the right to take legal action against the FCDO. We would prefer the FCDO simply did their job, but in the absence of that, victims are left with little choice.

“We hope the debate will go a long way to pushing the issue of travel warnings within the FCDO and of course, increasing the quality of diplomatic intervention and service to British citizens. The UAE’s marketing is so strong and the façade of Dubai so modern, that it’s even more important for the FCDO to increase travel warnings. Looks can be deceiving”.

Laleh Shahravesh, who was detained over a Facebook post, complained that the FCDO did “absolutely nothing” and that she wished she “had never taken their advice”. Laleh is keen to see the FCDO improve services for British citizens unfairly detained.

Laleh Shahravesh and daughter Paris (Good Morning Britain appearance) warned the FCDO's advice would have landed her in jail. Detained in Dubai fought for her return to the UK.

Edinburgh’s Billy Barclay was similarly appalled after being detained over a counterfeit £20 note. Billy told Detained in Dubai the “Foreign Office did nothing to help”. Stirling worked with Ras Al Khaimah authorities to expedite his release. They apologised for the arrest but Billy and his family still get nervous when travelling.

Stirling commented, “it’s one citizen after the other complaining that they have been completely abandoned by the British government. It needs to be people before trade. Britain has immense influence in the Middle East and our allies need to know that we won’t stand for this anymore”.

Albert Douglas, a 60 year old grandfather has been held in Dubai over bounced cheques that have since forensically been proved not to be his. He was beaten by prison guards when he was first arrested, leading to multiple broken bones. Albert has made very serious complaints to the FCDO for their lack of care since his arrest. “They promised they would send a clemency request that we had drafted with lawyers but failed to submit it in time. They were unable to get Dubai authorities to give me my heart medication for nine months and they unethically told third parties that I had my medication when I did not. They were made aware of that directly by me but continued to tell others that my medication had been taken care of. The amount of frustration they have caused me. It is like they are trying to cover themselves up and cover up for Dubai too. They even threatened to deny me consular service at one point. Rahat Ahmed at the consular liaison office has received innumerable complaints and not just from me. I have to question who is he trying to help, Brits or Emiratis?”.

On the 2nd of July 2021, Baroness Whitaker, Martin Docherty-Hughes, MP and Andy Slaughter, MP wrote to The Rt Hon. Dominic Raab, MP at the FCDO calling for increased travel warnings for British citizens, even going so far as to call for sanctions after the beating of Albert Douglas.

“The FCDO’s failings have been highlighted by an increasing number of MP’s and members of the House of Lords”, added Stirling. “The stronger posture from prominent politicians, we hope, will result in increased protection and assistance for British citizens who face often unbelievable situations abroad”.



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