UK veteran Andy Neal was arrested in Dubai in late 2018 on the basis of an informant. Despite there being no evidence of drugs in his bloodstream, or in his possession; and despite the informant recanting his identification of Andy, the distinguished soldier was held for over a year and subjected to continuous efforts to coerce a false confession. Andy was recently exonerated of the allegations, and has just returned home to the UK.
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, who represented Andy, issued a statement:
“Everything wrong with the UAE legal system and law enforcement is on display in Andy’s case. He was arrested because of an unreliable, and later withdrawn identification by an informant; no evidence was ever found to substantiate his arrest, and in fact, conclusive evidence of his innocence was discovered by the police within months of his detention; yet the Dubai police refused to release him and admit their error. Instead, Andy’s case was transferred to Abu Dhabi so that Dubai could avoid responsibility for his wrongful detention.
“Andy is a diagnosed PTSD sufferer, after serving his country for years in the world’s most dangerous war zones, and UAE authorities used this condition to try to force him to confess to a crime he did not commit. When Andy’s case was highlighted by the British media, he was punished with solitary confinement in Abu Dhabi. Andy has suffered tremendously, and both the Dubai police and authorities in Abu Dhabi are culpable for his wrongful imprisonment. We even brought his ordeal before the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, because there was never the slightest justification for his initial arrest nor prolonged imprisonment. Had Andy’s case not received media interest, and the active attention of the FCO, he would not be home with his family today.
“We are obviously enormously happy to see Andy finally cleared of the false charges and back in the UK; but he is the victim of a gross injustice perpetrated by a system prone to injustice. Polish national Artur Ligeska was wrongfully convicted in the UAE at roughly the same time as Andy, upon an almost identically fraudulent basis; and he was also freed only after extensive media coverage and government intervention.
The UAE legal system is not self-correcting; we are inundated with cases of wrongful arrests, false imprisonment, unevidenced allegations, and judicial and prosecutorial corruption; without sustained international scrutiny, cases like Andy’s will continue to occur in the UAE, and those future victims may not be as fortunate as Andy is today. We welcome Andy home, and we urge the press and the UK government to continue to raise the issue of UAE abuses before the public until genuine improvements are implemented inside the country.”
Andy Neal is currently recovering with his family after his ordeal.