British veteran Andrew Neal has been acquitted by an Abu Dhabi court of baseless drug charges after over a year in prison. Neal was arrested in October last year as part of a large scale police operation against a suspected drug syndicate, despite there being no evidence to substantiate his involvement. Police searched Neal, his car, and his apartment and found no trace of drugs, neither in his possession nor in his bloodstream. He was arrested solely on the basis of an informant’s statement which was later retracted. After Andy spent months in detention, police searched for evidence on the phones of the 17 people arrested along with him and discovered that not only did Neal have no communication with the other suspects, but the records actually identified the true drug dealer whom police had accused Andy of being. It turned out that the actual dealer was a Filipino woman who had already been deported from the UAE.
Even in spite of the evidence proving Andy’s innocence, he continued to be detained, with police employing all manner of attempts to coerce a confession from him; even using a psychologist sent to counsel Andy in prison for his PTSD to try to manipulate him into a false confession. Eventually his case was transferred to Abu Dhabi, where the conditions in jail were even more harsh, and his access to communication severely limited. Detained in Dubai lobbied for his release for months, bringing his plight to the attention of the British and global media, appealing to the FCO, and calling upon UAE authorities to dismiss the charges and even making submissions to the United Nations for his arbitrary detention.
“Two of our former clients, who suffered similar injustice in the UAE, have been highly supportive of Andy and his family during this ordeal,” says Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai. “Artur Ligeska particularly, endured almost identical circumstances, having been falsely accused of drug offences, only to be ultimately freed after several months of imprisonment following a wrongful conviction.
“We are ecstatic that Andy has been acquitted, but this should never have happened, and yet, not only does it happen, but it happens regularly in the UAE. There are cases right now of foreign nationals accused without evidence, and arrested solely on the basis of statements by coerced informants. It is unacceptable. Andy served Britain for over 20 years in the armed services, he has already been exposed to severe trauma in war zones around the world and suffers from PTSD; what the UAE justice system has done to him will last far beyond this past year of wrongful detention, and these kinds of legal abuses need to stop.
“Police and prosecutors in Dubai knew almost immediately that Andy was innocent, and certainly knew this after discovering the identity of the actual culprit at the beginning of this year. Yet, not only did they not release Andy, they continued to try to coerce him into confessing to a crime they knew he did not commit. Andy’s steadfastness and will to endure this nightmare is amazing, and he deserves to be both commended and compensated; but no one should have to go through this. The British government needs to reassess its relationship with a country whose legal system is so severely flawed, and where our citizens can be subjected to months or even years of arbitrary imprisonment on the feeblest of pretexts.”