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UK-UAE Future Relationship Hinges on Matthew Hedges’ Destiny

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UK-UAE relationship over Matthew Hedges

There are many ways to get arrested in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Remember a US-born English teacher, arrested and banged up for five days in a cockroach-infested Abu Dhabi prison? He was shackled in leg-iron and dumped in the hell-hole because he missed a bank payment on his £93,000 debt. The 52-year-old, who didn’t want to be named, revealed that a guard threatened him that he would be sent to a prison in the middle of the desert that had murderers and Russian mafia as residents. All because he failed to pay on his debt on time.

Remember Jamie Harron? The Briton who was sentenced to three months in prison after being convicted of alleged indecency Dubai? It was only after international criticism that he was released. But by then, Jamie had already been shamed.

Remember Lee Bradley Brown, a British tourist who died in custody in Dubai six days after he was arrested for verbally assaulting a Nepalese maid? Four British citizens, who were being held at the same police station, confirmed Brown was badly beaten and tortured.

If a debt defaulter, a supposed indecent man and a verbal abuser can be subjected to such horror, what chance does an alleged spy have?

Matthew Hedges, a British academic, has been awarded life sentence for allegedly spying in the UAE for the UK Government. UAE’s attorney general, Hamad al-Shamsi, says Matthew has confessed to the charges. But it is a one-sided story without any independent confirmation. In any case, it’s easy to break a man and force him to admit after he has suffered six months in prison already.

There was no fair play. The so-called hearing lasted less than five minutes. The scholar had no legal representation. The autocratic handling of his case indicates UAE has no established standard of decency. There is no honour.

His wife, Daniela Tejada, has urged the UK Government to take a stand for its citizen. And she doesn’t mean a routine statement of displeasure at the incident from the foreign office.

Prime Minister Theresa May is apparently deeply disappointed and concerned. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned UAE of severe consequences. It is all rhetoric. When it comes to action, the UK Government has shown very little spine.

Jamal Khashoggi’s murder triggered unprecedented global damning of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman. Matthew’s case should evoke nothing less. He may not have been murdered, but the prospect of spending an entire life in hostile and humiliating conditions will surely kill his spirit.

The United Kingdom has a warm relationship with the UAE. But this warmth is not born out of UK’s belief in UAE’s moral standards. This is a partnership based on pure interest. As long as the UAE continues to buy weapons, among other things, from the UK, they are willing to ignore their war crimes and human rights violations.

UAE, after Saudi Arabia, is the second largest importer of weapons in the Middle East and was listed as the world’s third largest importer of weapons between 2012 and 2016.

Most of its weaponry comes from the UK. UK companies have profited from war and oppression around the world, sending a clear message that human rights are of less importance than profit.

But this a dangerous mentality that could potentially turn common Britons against their own regime. There is nothing as fatal for a Government as losing the respect of its own people. It must put ethics alongside commerce if it wants to preserve that respect.

Moreover, the UK must understand that when it comes to critical situations, UAE has proven to be unreliable.

In 2015, the UAE threatened the UK Government that it would block millions of Pounds of arms deals, stop inward investment and cut intelligence cooperation if David Cameron did not act against the Muslim Brotherhood.

This is a critical situation for the United Kingdom. And it should send a strong message that translates into action.

Foreign Secretary raised the Hedges case when he was in Dubai last week, but failed to make an impression on UAE’s foreign minister, Anwar Gargash. He believes the conviction of Hedges is based on credible trial. The UAE, for now, is not budging. Hedges has 30 days to appeal the sentence.

UAE is fast turning into a State that is dangerous for British and other foreign academics and students. Experts and lecturers have warned UK universities to review their ties with the UAE in light of Hedges’ life imprisonment. University of Birmingham’s proposed £100m Dubai campus is likely to be shelved.

Sometimes, this is how a full-scale boycott starts.

Football

What’s Magnetizing Saudi to Bid for Manchester United Time and Again?

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Saudi Arabia bids to buy Manchester United, premier league

Rumours about Saudi’s bid of taking over the Premier League Club, Manchester United, keep coming out in the media. Recently, it was reported that Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) offered £3.8bn takeover bid of the club.

However, in a statement on Monday the nation dismissed its plans of taking over the club. The news is “completely untrue,” Saudi information minister Turki Alshabanah wrote on Twitter.

According to the sources, “The club held a meeting with the Public Investment Fund to discuss an advertising sponsorship project, and the Fund listened to the proposals as any investment and did not produce any results,” Turki Alshabanah said.

Despite that it cannot be said for how long can Saudi stick by its guns. Even back in October last year, the Kingdom made an offer to acquire the club, but could not capitalize on the opportunity following the claims of murdering Saudi Journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

The Need of the Hour

Managing image in the West has been the Kingdom’s topmost priority for a very long time. Even as recently as last week the Journal reported that the nation’s collaboration with the Western media was exposed hoaxing MbS’ reform.

The Crown Prince had reportedly signed a deal with Vice Media, under which the media house was directed to produce documentaries and influence the Western nations.

Manchester United has bagged the coveted Premier League Trophy 13 times, more than any other club in the history, and maybe this is what brings the Saudis to the table. The club is currently owned by Glazer family, who purchased it in 2005 for £790million.

Besides, Saudi’s close aide and long-time ally, UAE, has successfully been spreading their message of positivity all over the world using football as a tool.

This is especially the case because the City’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, belongs to the royal family of Abu Dhabi. Together with Khaldoon al-Mubark, his youthful executive and advisor to royal family, he holds the key to delegate how the management works.

In fact, UAE doesn’t stop here, the Emirate has found its own City Football Group (CFG) and it owns or co-owns six clubs across four continents. The group, as reported by the Guardian, has contracted more than 240 male professionals, and two dozen women.

The UAE’s bridge to the West is exactly what the Kingdom aims at replicating by trying to reach Manchester United. Therefore, the probability of owning the club to promote the national image is still on the cards for them.

Conversely, Saudi-UAE have raged a war against humanity in Yemen, killing more than 10,000 people. Both nations have also continuously faced the heat over the detention of human right activists, and for barring people to express what’s right. However, big strides in the West aimed at fixing and building reputation is what the two gulf nations have continuously worked on.

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UK Outraged by Trump’s Threat of Releasing 800 ISIS Fighters

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The US forces fighting in Syria captured some 800 ISIS fighters that it wants the EU to take into custody, not doing which will result in their release. The threat came from US President Donald Trump who has been exceptionally vocal about his views, even though bizarre, especially on Twitter. The threat has left most of the European officials angered while others, a bit confused in disappointment. The said reaction was witnessed recently at the Munich Security Conference, held in Germany. The event saw European officials and security experts outraging over Trump’s statement on releasing 800 ISIS fighters on EU’s failure in taking them back.

While other countries of the likes of France, have come forward with the solution of taking back their ex-Jihadists, UK, on the other hand has shown resistance. The UK government has especially expressed the confusion, keeping in mind the wives and children of the fighters who pose challenge in the decision making. Therefore, the government is now uncertain about releasing a final verdict on the fighters, whether or not to prosecute them.

Another option considered is to ensure stopping the fighters from carrying out any sort of terrorist activity in their home country. Meanwhile, another condition put forth by the UK government for taking back fighters is for them to get consular help in Turkey.

The tweet in question that is said to have started the entire issue read, “The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 Isis fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial. The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them.”

Foreign Secretary of UK, Jeremy Hunt as said in one of his previous interviews to an Arab media that his government is not planning to send across anymore military forces to fight in Syria. However, Hunt also emphasized on the fact that he will entertain all of US’ request.

ISIS militants have been preventing 1000’s of civilians from leaving the region, according to a Syrian Defence Force spokesperson. Shamima Begum, 19, is the latest and amongst the three Briton schoolgirls who fled the UK in 2015, joining the ISIS. Shamima then reportedly fled the enclave and was found recently in the al-Hawl refugee camp. The remarks made by President Trump about releasing ISIS fighters came at the time of an enormous transatlantic squabble going on between the military and politicians about the withdrawal of 2,000 troops from the north-west Syrian region.

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UAE Police Detains UK War Veteran Andy Neal by Falsely Extracting Confession

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andrew-neal, UAE,

The police force in the United Arab Emirates do not care for human rights. They are arbitrary, overbearing and carry the State-licence to arrest and punish individuals without any evidence of wrongdoing.

A British war veteran has been languishing in Dubai Central Prison since October 4 on cooked-up charges of ‘drug dealing’. Andy Neal was picked up from the parking lot of his apartment complex by seven Criminal Investigation Department officers. He had just returned from work. He was then taken up to his apartment where, according to rights group Detained in Dubai, he was punched in the stomach. Neal was staying with his wife and two young children and the beating reportedly took place in front of the family.

The 44-year-old Briton pleaded innocence, but no one was listening. His fate had been sealed. The officers had come to arrest, not enquire and investigate.

At the police station, he was forced to sign a document prepared in Arabic. Later, it was discovered that the forced confession said Neal bought drugs from a man called Ray and sold them to a man called Ahmed. Ahmed, the alleged accuser, is said to have retracted his statement in January. Also, no drugs were found in Neal’s possession and his blood report came negative. But it didn’t matter.

His family is severely traumatized. Neal has lost his business that he built over a period of four years. Most people know about life in a Dubai jail. It’s torturous and inmates have been known to be pushed to the brink, contemplating suicide.
Like it always does, the UAE Government continues to be a silent spectator.

Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is back in the picture. His office is in touch with the UAE authorities. Hunt was recently seen negotiating with UAE for the release of British academic, Matthew Hedges. He was convicted of spying and given a life prison sentence.

David Haigh, a British Lawyer and campaigner for human rights, was convicted of fraud charges in Dubai and spent 22-months in prison, where he claims he was tortured and raped. According to Haigh, a prison guard told him, “Be careful, British prisoners die here.”

In 2011, British tourist, Lee Bradley Brown, was arrested by the Dubai police and died in prison after six days of custody in a controversial manner. Jamie Harron, Billy Barclay and Ellie Holman are other high-profile cases. There are reports of forced disappearances in the UAE, with many foreign nationals and Emirati citizens abducted by the UAE government and illegally detained and tortured in undisclosed locations. There is an unending list.

Yet, London says it is ‘good friends’ with the UAE. What it means is trade with Abu Dhabi takes precedence over the life and security of its own people.

It is not as if the UAE has any beef with Britain. It could be any other country. In fact, UAE is as brutal and cold-blooded with its own people. Sheikha Latifa II, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, is a classic case in point. She had tried to flee from the clutches of her domineering family, but was caught just as she was about to make final escape.

If a royal member can be subjected to horrors, what chance do others have?

Anyone who goes to the UAE as a visitor must remember that there are no internationally accepted norms of justice in the country. Those who visit the Emirates must do so at their own peril.

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