The UAE has some of the world's toughest laws against drugs. Convicted drug traffickers are liable to be executed and possessing even small amounts of illicit substances can lead to a lengthy jail sentence.
Not only that. The British Foreign Office warns travellers arriving in the UAE or passing through its airports that even if they are not carrying drugs "the Emirati authorities count the presence of drugs in the blood stream as possession".
The US State Department further warns that medicines containing codeine and foods containing poppy seeds fall foul of the UAE's drug laws.
This policy of ultra-zero-tolerance may not be quite what it seems, however, if a story currently circulating in Dubai turns out to be true. The story is that last month police arrested a 23-year-old man for possessing 2kg of heroin but released him without charge after discovering he was a son of Mohammed Dahlan, the former head of Palestinian "preventive security" in Gaza.
According to the story, Dahlan was taken to a police station where he produced a Serbian passport which police initially suspected might be a fake. Further inquiries established that the passport was genuine and that the young man was indeed a son of Mohammed Dahlan.
At that point, according to the report, a superior office stepped in and ordered the case to be closed – fearing that if news of it reached the media there would be an "earth-shattering scandal" which could be exploited by "enemies of the state".
The Dahlan family – Mohammed, his wife and four children – and five of his key political supporters all acquired Serbian citizenship in 2013-2014.
The source of the Firas Dahlan story appears to be a series of tweets posted on August 7 by @mujtahiduae who claims to be "roving inside palaces and state institutions" on a mission to "expose corruption and unmask the corrupt".
In a new tweet yesterday, @mujtahiduae says Dubai police are now investigating three officers suspected of leaking the story.
Mohammed Dahlan – who left Palestine under a cloud – is reportedly working as a security adviser for Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed.
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Sunday, 9 August 2015