Defending theHuman Rightto a Fair Trial
July 20, 2012
The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Cassation Court on Monday (July 23) reviews the case of Safi Qurashi. The 43-year-old London businessman was sentenced in 2010 for seven years for fraud in relation to bounced cheques intended as security for a property deal. During the trial, Safi and his colleagues were denied basic defence rights, such as effective interpretation and the translation of documents, and could not call key witnesses in their defence. The hearing is a major step forward in Safi’s bid for freedom as the UAE’s court rarely reviews criminal cases.
Jago Russell, Chief Executive of Fair Trials International, said:
“We urge the UAE to show some compassion for Safi Qurashi and his young family who desperately want him home. Safi has already spent years in a Dubai jail and his case highlights the harsh laws that lie beneath the glitz and glamour of Dubai’s tourist adverts and shining financial districts.”
The UAE’s harsh criminal laws impose lengthy prison sentences for bounced cheques. Since the downturn in their economy, the number of debtors in UAE prisons has grown significantly and includes a large number of foreign investors. In January this year the UAE President, Sheikh Khalifa, ordered the debts of nearly 7,000 Emiratis to be cleared, totalling Dh 2 million (£350,000), and released prisoners while the debt was being settled. This ruling however did not include foreign nationals and there are dozens of foreign prisoners like Safi who continue to languish in prison for debt.
For more information please contact Fair Trials International on +44 (0)20 7822 2370 or +44 (0)7950 849 851
Notes to Editors
1. Fair Trials International is a human rights charity that provides assistance to people arrested in a country other than their own and campaigns for reform to fight the underlying causes of injustice in cross-border cases.
2. The cases of Safi Qurashi, Mustafa Nagri and Yusuf Nagri are indicative of the plight of a growing number of investors in the UAE imprisoned for non-payment of debts. After founding a company in the UAE, specialising in developing luxury waterfront properties, they were arrested by the police in 2010 and accused of issuing cheques that bounced. Although they explained that these were security cheques and were not intended to be cashed, they were given lengthy prison sentences.
3. Criminalisation of bounced cheques: Currently the UAE Penal Code creates a criminal offence for bounced cheques, punishable with a prison sentence of up to three years, for each cheque. In a country where the use of cheques is a widely accepted practice as security for business transactions, this has resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of many people. This is prohibited under international human rights law, including Article 18 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights which the UAE has ratified.
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Fair Trials Europe is a registered public foundation in Belgium (No. 552688677).
Fair Trials Europe was founded by Fair Trials International
(a registered charity with limited liability in England and Wales, Nos 1134586 and 7135273),
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