Steve Long Transferred to Al Wathba Prison Where Family Fears "He Will Die"
Steve Long, the British veteran and paramedic whose background working with bomb disposal units caused him to have a mental breakdown in Abu Dhabi airport last month, telling staff he believed there was a bomb on the plane, has been transferred from psychiatric hospital to prison. His family fear his mental state will worsen, “I’m afraid he will die in prison,” his sister Clare said yesterday.
Further details have emerged about both the incident that led to his arrest, as well as the mistreatment he suffered at the hands of police. “Steve was hallucinating and believed he was back in the military,” Clare explained, “We were trying to get him home to Manchester because friends said he had been displaying signs of a breakdown. We wanted to get him to hospital as soon as possible.”
When Long told airport staff that he feared there was an explosive on the plane, apparently there was disagreement as to whether or not police should be summoned, with staff initially recognising that Long was suffering a psychotic episode. Supervisors at Etihad Airlines, however brought in police, and Long was immediately arrested and taken into custody, where he was unable to drink or eat due to his mental state. He was denied medication, unless he agreed to “confess”.
Clare and Long’s new bride, Heloise, flew to the UAE the day after his arrest. When they were finally allowed to visit him, he was too weak and in too much pain to stand up without being held by two guards. Steve’s wife and sister pleaded with the police to take Steve to hospital. Radha Stirling, CEO and Founder of Detained in Dubai commented, “Steve has been carrying trauma from his time working with bomb disposal units in the military, and while he was in the UAE he witnessed a number of drone attacks carried out by Houthi rebels in Yemen in retaliation for the Emirates’ role in the ongoing conflict there. These attacks triggered a severe PTSD reaction for Steve, and he spiralled into a manic state, imagining that he was back in the armed services and in a war zone. In his mind, he was alerting the airport staff about a possible bomb out of a sense of duty and caution. However, when police became involved, they treated Steve like a terrorist, shackling him, denying him access to not only medication, but food and water, as well as not allowing him to call the British embassy or his family. He was told that he would only be given food and water once he ‘confessed’. When he was taken to hospital, he was found to be suffering from severe dehydration and rhabdomyolysis. Doctors quickly recognised that he was in the midst of a mental breakdown and transferred him to the psychiatric ward where he has been improving under antipsychotic medication.”
Despite having attended his court hearings from the psychiatric ward via mobile link, Long was sentenced to a fine of £103,000; if he cannot pay the fine, he will serve 13 years in prison.
“Airport staff recognised that Steve was having a breakdown, police knew it, the judge knew it,” Stirling explained, “Yet they all decided to treat him like a criminal. The British embassy knows that Steve will not receive medical or psychiatric treatment in prison, and his condition will only deteriorate. He is in urgent need of treatment, which is exactly why his family arranged for him to fly home from his holiday early. We are enormously worried about how he will cope in the harsh conditions now that he has been transferred to jail. Abuse in the UAE prison system is rampant and well-documented, he is in danger both from guards and fellow inmates. His psychological state is already fragile, and once his medication runs out, we fear he will suffer an even worse mental breakdown.”
Stirling said that her organisation has contacted Long’s local MP, the FCDO, the British embassy, and Etihad Airlines to try to resolve the case and secure his immediate release. “We understand the alarm and disruption caused by Steve’s breakdown, but he is a victim here,” She said, “He has spent years in the most stressful and intense situations imaginable, and has seen horrific carnage; it has taken a terrible toll on him and he needs help. When he reported his concerns to staff at the airport, he was doing what any good soldier would do, and what Steve has spent his life doing – trying to save lives. He does not deserve to be punished for cracking under the compounded pressure of years of traumatic service to his country. We are asking the UAE to demonstrate compassion and understanding in this case, and let Steve come home to his family, and receive the treatment he needs.”
Detained in Dubai: http://www.detainedindubai.org
Detained in Doha: https://www.detainedindoha.org
Radha Stirling: http:///www.radhastirling.com
Due Process International: http://www.dueprocess.international