A 61 year old British man has been arrested in the United Arab Emirates for anti-anxiety medication that is legal in the UAE with prescription because a customs officer believed he had ‘too many pills’. Perry tried to explain to the officer that he had to have enough to last him for his 6 month voyage at sea; but to no avail. Perry is now detained in Dubai and denied not only his medication, but even treatment for his prostate cancer.
Perry Coppins, a maritime security officer from Nottingham in the UK has been diagnosed with anxiety and for the last 21 years has been taking Temazepam, Clonazepam and Citalopram prescribed by his GP. Without these medications, like one in ten Brits, he can not function. As Perry is at sea for months on end, he has to bring enough of his prescribed medication to last the voyage. He knows to keep his prescription paperwork with him to satisfy customs officers at the various ports through which he passes. During the luggage check at Fujairah seaport, Perry’s prescription paperwork was not accepted by an overzealous customs man. Despite Perry’s explanations and documentation, the CID were called, and Perry was arrested and thrown in jail for 5 weeks while waiting for his first court appearance.
He was denied his medicine in jail, and Perry’s psychological condition deteriorated rapidly. He experienced severe withdrawal from all 3 medicines, including hallucinations, extreme stress, he lost 20kg, and suffered intense pain, bouts of blindness and uncontrollable sweating. Quitting antidepressants “cold turkey” is described as life threatening even to a young, fit person. Perry is 61 and has since been diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer for which the UAE is refusing to give him treatment. Because he has not had the treatment he needs, he now needs an operation to save his life. This is also being denied by the UAE authorities.
With no means of income, he will soon be homeless until his court hearing, and then almost certainly thrown into jail. With still no help for his cancer and mental health issues
Despite repeated pleas from Perry and his friends and family, the authorities refuse to listen.
Perry has lost his job and had his passport confiscated. His life savings will run out altogether soon, and he will have no place to stay until his trial.
Perry works long sea voyages away from home to give his children the best life he can; even though it means he often can't see them for months on end.
His two daughters, Pia 24 and Mia 10, miss him every day, as does his son, Cameron, 21. “It’s so cruel,” Pia tells us. “Nobody should be treated like this. He is not a young man and he needs medical help to cope with his anxiety. Not being allowed his cancer treatment is like giving him a death sentence. Does human life mean nothing to those people?”
Ex wife Lesley agrees. “Perry and I spilt up, but he is a good man who loves his kids. I really hope the Dubai authorities decide to do the humane thing and let him free. Those medicines are taken by millions of people. He needs them to function.”
Radha Stirling, CEO of the British based human rights NGO Detained in Dubai who are representing Perry released the following statement: “UAE laws on medicines are often vague and frontline law enforcement officials are frequently unaware of exactly what the rules permit or prohibit; so they make uneducated and arbitrary judgment calls..
“In fact the 3 medications which Perry possessed, are perfectly legal in the UAE, provided the patient has prescription documentation, which Perry has. The initial mistake of the customs officer should never have escalated into criminal charges; but this reveals the lack of professionalism within the legal system, and what appears to be the capriciousness of the Public Prosecutor’s office.
“Perry needs urgent treatment for his prostate cancer. To deny him this in a timely fashion is a gross violation of his human rights. We hope that the UAE will show compassion to Perry and his children, and release him immediately, so that he can return home for the medical treatment he needs.”