Israeli PTSD sufferer arbitrarily arrested in Dubai
In a case reminiscent of the arrest of Steven Long last March, an Israeli citizen who has been diagnosed with PTSD was detained at Dubai Airport last week over claims of disturbing the peace.
Nachman Gabai, 21, was on his way from Tel Aviv to India when he had an 8-hour layover in Dubai. Gabai and another Israeli were standing outside the terminal building when a police patrol approached to question them. Gabai became agitated, at which point the police ordered him to submit to a strip search and luggage inspection. When nothing unlawful was found, Gabai allegedly became insulting towards the police, and was taken into custody.
“Unlike the case of Steven Long, who suffered a mental health breakdown at Abu Dhabi airport which led to his arrest last Spring,” Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai explained, “Nachman Gabai wasn’t disturbing anyone. He was targeted by the police for no apparent reason, unfairly subjected to a humiliating strip search, and provoked. Even for someone who does not suffer from PTSD, this sort of treatment would be angering. Nachman committed no crime except to protest his harassment by the police.”
In the case of Steven Long, the British bomb disposal expert had suffered a paranoid meltdown causing him to believe the plane he was about to board was carrying an explosive. Long was arrested and sentenced to pay £104,000 or serve 13 years in jail. Gabai has been remanded to custody pending trial, and could face a similar sentence when convicted.
Steve Long was arrested in the UAE because he was afraid. On January 28th, the 39-year-old from Stockport, Manchester told airport staff in Abu Dhabi, before he was to board a flight home, that he feared there would be a bomb on the plane. He wasn’t making a bad joke; he was in the grips of residual trauma.
“It seems that the police were determined to arrest Nachman with or without cause,” Stirling said, “There was no reason to question him initially, no reason to search him or his belongings, and there were no grounds for arresting him. He is facing charges of disturbing the peace, despite the fact that he was peacefully standing at the airport when the police disturbed him; and he is accused of insulting a police officer, which is a charge reliant completely on the word of the officer himself. In Dubai, accusations are treated, in and of themselves, as evidence, especially if those accusations are made by the police. Any police officer in the UAE can easily earn the government tens of thousands of pounds in fines just by accusing a foreigner of being disrespectful; no witnesses or proof are required, and a conviction is nearly guaranteed.
“In the case of Steven Long, public outrage over his mistreatment by the UAE enabled his family to collect the money to secure his release through an online campaign; without diplomatic intervention by Israeli authorities, I would expect that Nachman Gabai will require the same sort of effort. It is impossible to not see this as an extortion racket, frankly; if a police officer targets you in the UAE, you must be prepared to hand over a six figure payment if you want to go home; never mind the fact that you are innocent.”
Reportedly, Gabai’s family is trying to find a local attorney to represent him in court, but Stirling cautioned that most lawyers in the UAE are closely related to the Public Prosecutor’s office and fair representation is rare, “Almost all of the prominent attorneys in the UAE formerly worked for the Public Prosecutor and maintain a cooperative relationship with them. Their role is to facilitate conviction while providing the appearance of a fair trial; a service they perform for exorbitant fees. Without either intervention by the Israeli government, or a media campaign to highlight Nachman’s situation, the outcome of the court proceedings is a foregone conclusion, and his family would better spend their resources paying off the inevitable fine the court will impose.”
Stirling further warned that Gabai may not have been randomly targeted by the police, “The overwhelming majority of police-initiated interactions in the UAE are based on tips by informants,” she said, “The fact that Nachman was targeted, harassed, and arbitrarily arrested suggests that he may have been singled-out for vindictive reasons, including the possibility of anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli motives, and that someone pointed him out to the police for this purpose.”
Detained in Dubai: http://www.detainedindubai.org
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Radha Stirling: http://www.radhastirling.com
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