The parents of a former British army dog handler and war hero being held in a Dubai jail, despite police admitting he is innocent, say he has had his PTSD condition and mental vulnerability exploited in an sinister and cynical attempt to make him “confess” to the crime.
Andrew Neal has been held in a terrifying Dubai jail among hardened criminals for 5 months, with no end in sight, despite the police and prosecution admitting he is innocent. The combat dog handler veteran suffers from severe PTSD following his stressful tours of duty in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia.
Maurice and Sue Neal, Andrew’s mother and father claim that the UAE authorities are exploiting the former soldier’s vulnerable mental state in crude attempts to bully him into “confessing” details of the crime, despite the police knowing Mr Neal was not involved in any wrongdoing.
“We’ve been lobbying the Dubai authorities to get Andrew help,” explains Maurice. “Our Andrew was receiving regular counselling for his PTSD and stress of any kind has a drastic effect on him. So being in that hideous jail and away from his family is devastating for him. He is in great danger of having a proper psychiatric breakdown in a situation like that. So we were pleased when he told us they had arranged for a psychiatrist to help Andy with coping in the jail.”
“Our relief didn’t last long,” Sue tells us. “He met with the ‘psychiatrist’ - if that’s what he really was - on Sunday. They kept Andrew handcuffed and surrounded by aggressive guards and police for the whole time that the so called session lasted for.
“The doctor wouldn’t let Andrew explain anything at all,” continues Maurice. “He just kept saying to Andrew’s face that he didn’t really suffer from PTSD, despite him having been diagnosed by the best Army doctors in the UK. He told Andy that he was just experiencing ‘general anxiety’, and would prescribe him what he called ‘an internationally known medicine’. Only he wouldn’t tell Andy what the medicine was. .
“The doctor guy kept asking Andy about the drugs case he is falsely charged with instead of trying to help him with his mental problems.” Says Sue. “Asking him where he had got the drugs, who he had sold them to, what drugs he took himself, and the like. It was all a sham to try and trick him into saying he did something that they already admit he is innocent of. It makes us scared that they will sentence him anyway, to save face.”
“Andy was really shaken by the whole event. Expecting help and then having to defend against the man who was trying to exploit Andrew’s weakness and trick him into confessing something they know he hasn’t done. Then to top it all off, the guy who said he was a doctor didn’t let Andy take the medicine with him. He said that medicine is not allowed in the building.”
“With these kind of attacks and exploitation of a vulnerable, man with mental health issues,” says Maurice, “we are more concerned than ever that they will frame him just to save face.”
Detained In Dubai also spoke with Dr Martyn Bignold, a clinical psychologist from the London Trauma Specialists Clinic about the likely effects of this situation on a PTSD victim. Dr Bignold has been working with military and emergency services PTSD victims since 2006 and explains that the negative effect of a PTSD sufferer like Andy being in a hostile environment like a Dubai jail, and denied treatment would be significant on both his physical and mental health.
"PTSD is s serious mental condition, requiring constant therapy and management in a safe secure environment," Dr Bignold tells us. "The thing about PTSD victims is that they are in a constant state of threat awareness. They are always evaluating their environment for potential danger and it is mentally and physically exhausting. Without help and under constant pressure, the sufferer is likely to have mental and physical symptoms such as pressure on his digestive system, tremors and elevated heart rate; all of which can lead to severe medical conditions."
Dr Bignold also indicated that in the West, a PTSD sufferer, or any mentally vulnerable individual would not be legally able to give consent to being interviewed, especially in the circumstances described. "There are guidelines for the treatment of vulnerable people, and the situation as described here, with the victim going into what he thought was a therapy session and then actually placed in a hostile environment surrounded by police and guards and interrogated, would be stressful in the extreme. His cognitive awareness and reasoning would be affected and he would be less able to explain himself or think properly."
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained In Dubai, the UK based human rights group representing Andrew Neal and his family had the following to say about Andrew Neal’s abuse by the UAE authorities: “Andrew Neal is a brave but vulnerable man, and the UK government needs to spend more time defending and protecting him and other British victims of the flawed Dubai legal system than they do in forming sinister MOUs to improve the image of the UAE.
Andrew has a huge support base, including the British military and several high profile MPs. This won’t simply go away to make things convenient for the UAE authorities.
It is time for the UAE to minimise the damage this case is doing to their reputation in the international community, and free this innocent man to rebuild his life with his wife and children."
Radha Stirling, is founder and CEO of UK / USA based legal and human rights organisation Detained in Dubai, Expert Witness and respected analyst of Middle East Policy.
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