The American legal team for Zack Shahin, a U.S. citizen who stands unconvicted of any crime after six years of discriminatory imprisonment in Dubai, has again urged the U.S. State Department to demand treatment of Shahin equal to that of his co-defendant in one of the remaining two cases pending. Shahin’s attorneys claim that during his nearly six years of pre-conviction detention, there is obvious evidence of discriminatory treatment of his cases, to which the U.S. government has expressed no public objection.
Shahin’s U.S. legal counsel released the following: “The State Department needs to speak out publicly against the kind of arbitrary and capricious application or misapplication of the Dubai laws with the sole purpose of imprisoning Zack Shahinindefinitely to answer charges which have been shown to be spurious. From the hundreds of continued hearings, to evidence an appellate court has described as ‘speculation,’ to ignoring the judicial process set forth in the laws of Dubai, Zack has been nothing but a scapegoat for the overall economic downturn suffered by Dubai around the time of his arrest. Still, the Department says nothing.”
“Our government has a duty to speak out against the discriminatory application of Dubai law against Zack Shahin. As documented in many media reports, and even declared law in Dubai, expatriates – including Americans, like Shahin – do not receive the same treatment as Dubai nationals when charged or convicted of a crime in Dubai.”
As support for their petition, Shahin’s counsel have outlined a number of cases and laws which defy fairness and justice inDubai, to which the State Department has yet to respond:
- Check bouncing (post-dating a check before due, and then dishonored) no longer results in imprisonment for Dubainationals, but requires imprisonment of expatriates until the check is made good. The docket is replete with examples of expatriates languishing in the Dubai General Prison, while a law passed last year exonerated Dubai nationals from such penalty.
- On February 28, 2011, Abed Al Boom, a Dubai national and businessman, was found guilty of breaching the trust of 3,706 investors and embezzling Dh 960 million of their money. He was sentenced to 923 years and nine months in prison – three months for each investor. However, a decree of August 2009 liquidated Al Boom’s assets and formed a special judicial committee authorized to check the financial status of Al Boom and take action to collect amounts owned by others to the debtor. Al Boom, during the entire process, and to this day has yet to see the inside of a jail cell – unlike what an American or other non-Emirati would experience in the same circumstances.
- In mid-January, Marcus Lee, twice cleared of fraud charges in Dubai, was denied access to his flight returning him toAustralia. He was told he needed a clearance from Dubai State Security, although a spokesman for Lee indicated Lee had obtained all the necessary approvals for departure.
- Most perplexing is a co-defendant with Shahin, Dr. Mohammed Khalfan Kharbash, Chairman of the board of Directors of Deyaar, has never been arrested, and all indications point that he will not receive any penalty for having been accused of misappropriating hundreds of millions Dirhams. He has been free to travel, and has even left Dubai on a number of occasions – unlike Shahin, who has languished for six years without proof of guilt.
“These are just a few of the many documented examples of discriminatory treatment of foreign citizens encountering the justice system in Dubai. Though the Department of State has spoken out forcefully against abuse of legal process in many countries – often on behalf of people who, unlike Shahin, are not even U.S. citizens – the Department maintains its silence on biased treatment of this American,” continued Shahin’s U.S. legal counsel.
About Zack Shahin’s Plight Since His March 2008 Arrest and Imprisonment:
March 23, 2014, will mark the six-year anniversary of Zack Shahin’s arrest. Except for the brief period following his release on bail in July 2012 and return that September, he has remained imprisoned without an upheld conviction. In early 2013, Zack was acquitted on the first of four criminal cases against him, all of which stem from the same baseless accusations concerning his tenure as CEO of Deyaar, a Dubai-based real estate company. The prosecutor unsuccessfully appealed this decision and the not-guilty verdict was upheld. In March 2013, Zack and co-defendants were found guilty of embezzlement and received a 15-year sentence. Zack immediately appealed the conviction and the Dubai Court of Appeals overturned the court’s decision.
Despite an appeals court overturning Shahin’s guilty verdict and a cassation court upholding another not-guilty verdict, after four years of court appearances and continuances, and an obvious strategic maneuver by the Dubai government to deny U.S. citizenZack Shahin his due process right to a trial, Washington continues to tread lightly.