Army colleagues of Brit father of 2 wrongly imprisoned in Dubai rally to his support.
A 44 year old British family man, war hero and PTSD sufferer is trapped in jail in the UAE on charges of being a drugs kingpin, despite the prosecutors admitting there is no evidence against him. Police searches of his house, phone and bank accounts turned up nothing, and even a blood test showed him to be clean of any kind of drug residue. The case was based solely on the forced confession of a witness, which was later retracted with the witness saying that he had “never mentioned Andy”.
Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai who represents Andy confirms that prosecutors have advised Andy that a decision on his release will be reached Thursday. Stirling responded “I spoke with Andy by phone who is extremely hopeful and nervous. He’s been told a decision on his release would be made in the past but then nothing ever happened, but he is praying nonetheless. He has asked for the UAE and UK governments to intervene in what is clearly an injustice and in itself, a crime against Andy and his family. This kind of abuse simply has to stop”.
Andrew Neal, a former dog trainer for the British army and devoted father of 2 has had support from all over the world on social media, with many Brits questioning why anyone would visit Dubai anymore.
Now his colleagues from the army have also come forward with messages of support, unanimously confirming that Andy would never be involved in drugs, or anything else that wasn’t above board.
Corporal Richard Marshall served with Andy for 3 years in the Army Royal Veterinary Corps dog training unit in Stennelager, Germany. He knows Andy well and is convinced that he would never be involved with drugs. “Andy hated drugs. He had no time for them, and anything to do with drug culture. Andy was committed to his family, his friends and colleagues, and the dogs we trained.
“Andy originally came from an infantry unit before he fell in love with the idea of working with dogs. He was so dedicated to a career training and handling dogs that he actually took a voluntary drop in rank to become an army dog trainer.
“What makes Andy such a talented dog trainer are his consideration and patience. Patience is the biggest quality a person needs to become a great dog trainer. Some trainers treat dogs like machines, to do a job of work. Not Andy, he took all the time needed to bond with each and every dog. It was like he could communicate directly with the dogs. They loved him, and he loved them too.
“Andy also cared deeply for people. He would treat everyone the same, whether they were higher or lower rank than him didn’t matter to Andy. Everyone got respect and consideration from him.
“I remember when I first arrived in Germany a young corporal, new to the unit and newly married too. It was hard for my wife, Claire, as we were in married quarters in a place called Detmold, which was an hour’s drive away from the base. She didn’t know anyone, and the language barrier was making it hard for her to fit in. It was putting a real strain on us, and even though he didn’t know me, Andy was the only person who noticed.
“He took me to one side and had a quiet word with me, wanting to know what was wrong and how he could help. I mean this guy didn’t know me. It wasn’t his problem, but he cared enough to drive me to the Army welfare officer’s office help me present my case to get myself and Claire moved to the much closer married quarters at Stennelager where she thrived.
“The effect this had on our marriage and ability to thrive in Germany was huge. I’ll never forget that helping hand. I really needed it, and he noticed and helped. He never wanted anything back, just to help. That’s the kind of man Andy Neal is.
Corporal Richard Marshall and wife Claire
“Later in our careers, Andy and I were both being treated for PTSD at the same time (Dog trainers are also dog handlers and serve in dangerous conflict zones, sniffing out IEDs and sometimes bodies or injured people). Andy suffered badly because he is such a caring guy and he was being helped with counselling.
“It breaks my heart to think of a decent, honest, loving guy like Andy, already suffering with PTSD subjected unfairly to the stress of being in that filthy jail. He is the last person who deserves that. I dread to think what kind of effect that kind of environment will be having on him. Andy would hate to be away from his wife and little boy and girl even if he was in a 5 star hotel, let alone in a Middle Eastern jail.”
Corporal Richard Marshall with military working dog Harvey. When Harvey retired, Richard was able to rehome him
Corporal Jan Rutherford also who served with Andrew Neal, but in the Worcestershire & Sherwood Foresters told us: “Out of all the soldiers I served with, Andrew Neal was the most honest, caring and family oriented man I knew. There is no way he would be involved with anything like this. Andy was an outstanding, brave soldier who would do anything for anyone. He would be the first to put himself in harm’s way if there was any trouble. You don’t get 8 plus medals for nothing in the the armed forces. You earn those medals through selflessness and professionalism.
“Andy was someone you could always go to for help. He would listen without judgement and give good advice to the new soldiers. He would selflessly guide them and take them under his wing
“He was very highly thought of throughout the battalion for his dedication and professionalism. An attitude which I’m assured he brought with him to his new role as an army dog trainer.”
Jan Rutherford. Left as a young infantryman
Jan Rutherford. present day with family
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai commented “Mr Neal and his family have been through enough. It’s time for the Dubai police and prosecutors to admit their mistake and release Andrew. Enough damage has been done to this innocent family. They have lost everything because of this. We urge the police to release Andy and let the Neal family begin to rebuild their lives. The damage this case is also doing to Dubai’s reputation is irreparable. Setting Andy free and clearing his name is an essential first step to reassuring foreign tourists and investors that they will not be in danger in the UAE.”
Sue, Andy’s very distressed mother, said in a conversation with Radha "After everything my son has been through, I am absolutely appalled and shocked that he could be so horrendously treated. How can a judicial system do this to a man they know is innocent? Andy just wants to come home to the UK and recover from this ordeal. He has experienced enough trauma in his life; it breaks my heart that this is happening to my son".
“This has been incredibly hard on the children, who have no explanation as to why their father has been absent for events he would never miss, like birthdays and Christmas. This is scary and confusing for a child; in fact it is for all of us. The children do not know why their father is prevented from coming home to them, and none of us know why either.”
Andy’s father Maurice is stunned that the British government, and Jeremy Hunt have not been supporting a veteran, who is clearly being abused by a foreign government. Maurice said “I am very disappointed in the British consular officials and the FCO. My son served this country for decades. He is a highly decorated soldier. I can't believe that the UK government hasn't done more to get him home. It is an outrage that British citizens can't rely on their own government to help them overseas, and it is a slap in the face particularly to veterans. Andy is innocent; Dubai knows it and our FCO knows it; so why is he still over there?”
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai - the organisation representing Andy Neal and his family released the following statement: “Mr Neal and his family have been through enough. It’s time for the Dubai police and prosecutors to admit their mistake and release Andrew. Enough damage has been done to this innocent family. They have lost everything because of this. We urge the police to release Andy and let the Neal family begin to rebuild their lives. The damage this case is also doing to Dubai’s reputation is irreparable. Setting Andy free and clearing his name is an essential first step to reassuring foreign tourists and investors that they will not be in danger in the UAE.
The trauma of being falsely accused and imprisoned is something that lingers; on sometimes for years, sometimes for a lifetime. It is a horrific violation and the damage is often permanent.”
The way the UAE authorities have dealt with Andy displays a cruel disregard for his humanity, and a contemptuous attitude towards basic standards of due process. The overwhelming majority of people caught up unjustly in the UAE legal system never get in the headlines, but after 10 years heading Detained in Dubai, I know that false accusations, forced confessions, and prosecutorial and judicial misconduct are absolutely routine in the Emirates; there is no doubt that many innocent people are suffering in silence in UAE jails. The British FCO and consular staff often advise citizens not to publicise their plight, even though it has been proved time and time again that the UAE only rectifies cases of injustice once they have been spotlighted by the international media. These travesties will just continue indefinitely if they are allowed to go on with no attention being paid to them
There is no reason to believe that Andy's situation will be resolved without serious intervention by the British government and public pressure. At this moment, a Polish national, Artur Ligeska, is in the harshest prison in the UAE, sentenced to life for possession and consumption of drugs, though no drugs were found on his person or in his property, and a blood test proved he had no drugs in his system. Artur was convicted exclusively on the testimony of a secret informant. In the UAE, proof of innocence is never a guarantee of freedom from unjust prosecution
Andy said in a telephone call with Radha “I can’t thank everyone enough for supporting to me, it means the world. I need this nightmare to be over and ask Sheikh Mohammed to please help, I shouldn’t be here and I just need to be home with my family. I loved living in Dubai and I trusted the system, I never thought anything like this could happen”.
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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