Artur Ligęska, who had been sentenced to life in Abu Dhabi prison contacted Detained in Dubai CEO Radha Stirling on Friday to surprise her with the delightful news that he was home safe in Poland.
In April last year, he had been accused of possessing and consuming methamphetamines, something he had never done in his life. At his last court appearance, his defence attorney had argued that there was absolutely no proof for the charges against Artur, and the police report confirmed the complete absence of physical evidence. It had been a long, traumatic experience, but Artur felt confident that it would finally be coming to an end.
“But five seconds after proceedings began,” Artur says,“I heard two – literally just two – words from the judge. ‘Life sentence”.
Artur was arrested, and eventually convicted on the farcical charges of possessing drugs he did not possess, and consuming drugs that were not in his system, based on information provided to the police via a “secret source”.
His world fell apart, but he maintained faith that he would eventually be released, he was innocent and surely his life could not be over.
Artur was held in solitary confinement for the duration of his imprisonment in Abu Dhabi’s Swehan prison but confirms that he was not tortured during his detention but had lost a lot of weight and did not have regular access to exercise. Other prisoners have complained about losing excessive weight in prison and being provided with the same meal every day (rice and chicken) ultimately leading to malnutrition.
Artur recovering at home with family in Poland.
Artur says, “During my time in Dubai prison, I met a Nigerian man who Detained in Dubai had helped secure medication for and ultimately got him out of prison. That’s when my family contacted them. There are many people who are grateful for their existence but it’s sad that they even need to exist. It shows that the UAE needs to change and that innocent people are at serious risk of abuse”.
Detained in Dubai worked on Artur’s case, and along with the committed support of the Polish Embassy, Abu Dhabi Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed ultimately intervened to dismiss the charges and allow Artur to return home earlier this month.
British national, PTSD sufferer and lifelong soldier Andy Neal who has similarly been detained without evidence against him, is currently being held in Abu Dhabi. Radha Stirling appointed barrister Toby Cadman to appeal to the United Nations to intervene in his arbitrary detention. Unfortunately, even despite widespread outrage in the UK over Andy’s case, the UK government has failed to take significant steps to secure his release.
“In Artur’s case, the support of the Polish government was decisive,” Radha Stirling notes, “Consular officials met him every week, and worked diplomatically for the Ruler to intervene. In Andy’s case, while his innocence has been indisputably proved by the evidence, the British government has made no noticeable efforts to get him home. The cases of Artur Ligęska and Andy Neal were very similar, equally unjustified, equally baseless. Artur is free today, and Andy remains in detention; the UK government must do more to raise Andy’s plight with Abu Dhabi’s Ruler and secure his release.”
Artur himself echoed Radha’s statement, “The British FCO needs to help Andy. He served in the military for over 20 years. He’s in the same situation as I was, detained without a shred of evidence against him and in unbelievable conditions. I thank the Polish government for their support, my lawyer Abdulla Lootah and Detained in Dubai. It was this pressure that led to the Ruler intervening in my case. Without them, my life would have been lost to a system that convicts people in 2 minutes. The UK needs to show the same support that Poland showed me if Andy is to be freed. It should not take over a year for innocent people to be released. Nobody should be jailed without evidence and foreign governments need to show these countries that they can’t keep doing this.”
Stirling said “Of course we are delighted that Artur was released, and are grateful to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed for his compassionate intervention. Artur’s happy to be free and recovering from a lenghty detention. He’s lost a lot of weight and is enjoying his mum’s home cooked food. It’s always lovely to see a happy ending and wonderful when victims of judicial abuse want to use their experience to help others, Now we are hopeful that Andy Neal’s happy ending will be forthcoming.”
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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