The innocence of Sheikh Issa

A court in the UAE has cleared Sheikh Issa bin Zayed Al Nayhan, brother of Abu Dhabi's ruler, of torturing a business associate.

A video which showed Sheikh Issa, assisted by men in uniform, torturing Afghan grain dealer Mohammed Shah Poor was widely circulated last year and was even broadcast on television in the US.

In the video, Sheikh Issa, together with members of the Emirates police:

  • Fired bullets from an automatic rifle around Mr Poor;

  • Used an electric cattle prod against Mr Poor's testicles and inserted it into his anus;

  • Poured lighter fluid on Mr Poor's testicles and set them on fire;

  • Pulled down the pants of Mr Poor and repeatedly struck him with a protruding nail attached to a wooden board. At one point, Sheikh [Issa] placed the nail next to Mr Poor's buttocks and banged it through the flesh;

  • Whipped Mr Poor over all his body including his face;
    Poured a large container of salt on to Mr Poor's wounds which were still bleeding;

  • Positioned Mr Poor on the desert sand and then drove over him repeatedly in a 4x4 vehicle.

The court apparently accepted Sheikh Issa's explanation that he had been drugged by two extortionists and was therefore "unaware of his actions".

The alleged extortionists were each sentenced to five years' jail in their absence, for drugging him.

In a statement issued before the verdict was announced, Human Rights Watch pointed out that the UAE is one of only a handful of countries that have not signed the UN Convention Against Torture

"If the UAE government really wants to stop torture and to restore its sullied image, one trial will not be enough," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director, said, adding that Sheikh Issa's prosecution was "not a substitute for the institutional reforms needed to prevent torture".

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 11 January 2010.