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  1. ITV Report

Reading student jailed in Dubai fresh plea for release

Ahmad Zeidan Photo: Reprive

A British student jailed in the United Arab Emirates after he was allegedly tortured into admitting drugs charges has made a fresh plea to the Government to press for his release.

Ahmad Zeidan has been locked up for almost two years after he was arrested when cocaine worth less than £5 was found in the car he was travelling in.

The 22-year-old from Reading in Berkshire claims he was forced to sign a confession in Arabic - a language he cannot read - after more than a week of brutal torture in which he was hooded, beaten, and threatened with rape. He was sentenced to nine years in prison last summer and remains behind bars in Sharjah, near Dubai, despite all of his co-defendants either being pardoned or acquitted.

Since his arrest in December 2013, Zeidan and his family have twice appealed for the Government to formally petition for him to be released under UAE state prisoner pardons but he has not been included in any amnesty so far.

Now he has pleaded with ministers to support his request to be freed in a pardon scheduled for September.

Speaking from prison, he said he was suffering a "mountain of pain". Addressing the Government, he said: "Do they not care about me or the form of discrimination I'm being made to go through?

"I'm the only British national serving time in Sharjah, and after an unfair trial. I'm the only person who hasn't been pardoned now. It's been almost two years now. Get me out of what I'm going through."

He described how his ordeal is taking its toll on his mental and physical health, saying he has suffered seizures and often wakes up in shock during the night after experiencing flashbacks.

"I'm not coping," he said. "I feel like I am going to self-implode. I'm just holding on to a thin line of something and I feel it's going to run out very soon.

"I try to create my own bubble to escape. The only thing I have are these 15-minute phone calls that I have to interact with the normal world."

Zeidan was studying at the Emirates Aviation College in Dubai when he was arrested along with several other young men after 0.04g of cocaine, with a street value of about £3, was found in the glove compartment of the car he was a passenger in.

He has always maintained the drugs did not belong to him.

In his latest comments, which were passed by campaigners at legal charity Reprieve to the Press Association, he condemned the legal process that led to his imprisonment.

"The fact that I didn't get leniency under the law is what upsets me. I haven't been given a fair trial and I shouldn't have got nine years," he said.

Maya Foa, of Reprieve, said Zeidan had suffered a "staggering miscarriage of justice" and urged for the Government to call for an end to his "nightmarish ordeal".

She said: "His brutal torture and the use of a bogus 'confession' - signed in a language he doesn't read or write - are more than enough reason for the British government to request his release.

"It is deeply disappointing that ministers have not yet done this." The Foreign Office said it would be "inappropriate" to comment on a continuing legal process.

But a spokeswoman said the department has been in regular contact with Zeidan and his family since his arrest to "provide assistance".

She said: "This has included consular visits to check on his welfare. We take allegations of mistreatment extremely seriously and have raised this with the UAE authorities."

Police in the UAE have previously denied claims of torture.