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Detained in Dubai has taken on the case of Andy Neal, detained in Dubai central prison since the 4th of October. Detained in Dubai is in touch with Andy’s family and is appointed as representative and spokesperson.
Englishman Andy Neal, 44, has been wrongfully detained in Dubai since the 4th of October 2018 after police seized him from his home one evening. Prosecutors have since realised Andy is innocent but continue to hold him in Dubai’s central prison as the lead prosecutor seeks promotion.
Nottingham born Andy Neal, served in the British army for 24 years. He has served as a corporal in the Worcester foresters from 1991 until 2009 and then transferred to the Royal Army Veterinary Corporation as a dog trainer and handler, with several tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Ireland. He was diagnosed with PTSD on his most recent deployment to Afghanistan.
Andy moved to Dubai with his wife and two young children (daughter, 6 and son, 2) in 2015 where he ran a dog training business and his wife works as a teacher. The family had enjoyed living in the Emirate where both children attend school. After Andy’s PTSD diagnosis, he enjoyed the tranquility of family life, that is, until he was abruptly accosted by seven CID officers in the basement car park of his apartment complex when returning home from work one evening. Before he could even ask what was going on, they flashed him with a WhatsApp message in Arabic and claimed it was a warrant. They searched Andy, searched his car twice and then made their way up to his apartment where Andy’s wife and sleeping children were.
When Andy opened the door, CID entered telling his shocked and frightened wife, and the family’s nanny, to remain on the sofa. Andy was taken by the men to the bedroom, while officers questioned his wife about who lived in the house and where the children were; she was not permitted to answer the door for the dog sitter who was returning the family dog from daycare. When she questioned why they were there, they said they were searching the apartment but didn’t explain what for then asked her why she looked worried, “we have never had any dealings with the police and you’re making me sit on the sofa while my husband is in the other room”, she replied.
The CID didn’t actually search anywhere in the apartment except a couple of drawers and wardrobes in the bedroom. “It didn’t seem they were serious about searching”, explains Mrs Neal.
In the next room, the officers punched Neal twice in the stomach, pinning him against the wall by his neck then sitting him on a chair in the middle of the bedroom, telling him “you need to cooperate or you will be going away to prison for 10 years”. Andy tried to explain that he was cooperating when they said “we know you’ve been handling drugs” to which he replied “I don’t have anything to do with drugs”. The police then threatened to take the children away that night, a parent’s worst nightmare.
The officers then threatened Mrs Neal “do not talk to anyone at all” as they took Andy to the apartment of a Dutchman named “Ray” and was told to ring the doorbell. Police then swarmed into the man’s apartment and arrested Ray and a woman, finding drugs on them. Andy had no idea why he had been taken here, but after their phones were confiscated, they were hauled into CID’s headquarters where Andy spent the next 17 hours, painfully handcuffed with no food, water or access to the bathroom.
Andy was told by the CID that someone had identified him as having sold drugs to them, but Andy continued to profess his innocence. The police drew up a statement in Arabic and forced Andy to sign it by way of his fingerprint, and when Andy complained that he had no idea what was written, the interrogator said “exactly what you said”. Mr & Mrs Neal later discovered that in fact, the contents of the document was a confession that he purchased drugs from Ray and sold them to Ahmed, a Pakistani/Canadian man who they told Andy had accused him of selling drugs.
It appeared to Mr Neal’s family that the police deliberately brought him to Ray’s house to make it appear as though they had arrested them together at Ray’s home, to make it seem like there was a connection.
A completely confused Andy Neal was hauled into Al Barsha police station, an overcrowded facility criticised for its harsh conditions. Lights are deliberately turned on 24 hours a day, and fights would break out between inmates, with no intervention from guards. Andy and other detainees had to intervene to stop another inmate committing suicide after receiving news of his mother’s death. Detained in Dubai explained “Dubai police stations have been heavily spotlighted since the death of Lee Bradley Brown in custody, after witnesses cited police violence as the direct cause. Since then, it appears little has changed.”
Mrs Neal was only able to visit her husband on Wednesdays. The first time she saw him, the Captain asked Andy “what happened?”, Andy broken down in tears “I had nothing to do with any of this”. The bruises on his wrists from the handcuffs were as conspicuous as the emotional pain he’d been suffering, the kind of pain unimaginable to those who haven’t themselves experienced being detained unjustly, particularly in a foreign legal system notorious for human rights abuses.
Mr Neal could barely process that he was now in this waking nightmare. When he attended his first hearing with the prosecution, the police had mixed up evidence and shown different evidence to different people, 17 of which were apparently arrested as part of a “sting”. The prosecutor told him that Ahmed had pointed the finger at Andy who, knowing himself to be innocent, believed that the police were telling him stories. Andy was interrogated again by the prosecution, asking if he confessed as per the original tricked “confession”, again he said “I have not said any of the things in the statement and had no dealings with any of this at all”. Andy then endured a series of hearings, some of which were cancelled when the prosecutor failed to turn up. Upon further question, the prosecution asked Andy what he would like to say to his accuser, “I want to contest what the man is saying, it’s not true”, and so a meeting was arranged for the 23rd of January. During the meeting, his alleged accuser Ahmed, proclaimed “I did not point the finger at Andy”, and his “statement” was then officially retracted. No drugs were found in Andy’s possession and all tests had returned negative. The alleged “statement” from Ahmed had been disproved and so surely Andy would be home soon.
After four months of detention, the prosecutor decided to analyse the phones of those who had been arrested; they found no communications between Andy and Ray, nor with any of the others who were involved. What they did find is that a Filipina woman who they had arrested among the 17, had texted Ray offering to sell him drugs. This discovery left the police in an embarrassing situation because they had already deported her, the seller they had been seeking, at the end of December 2018. The new evidence exonerated Andy and he was told the prosecutor would finalise the decision as to whether to release him or transfer his case to Abu Dhabi before the end of January.
Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai, who is representing the Neal family said, “The police not only failed to competently investigate the case, but have locked up an innocent British family man for over four months. The prosecutor is reportedly seeking a promotion, which may be what’s holding up his decision to release Andy Neal. If he releases him now, they are forced to admit fault, while if they transfer the case to Abu Dhabi, the case is no longer their responsibility; the whole investigation would begin again and Andy would be detained for a further four months, to again be found innocent.
It is wholly unacceptable that the UAE government seems to have made zero progress over the past ten years, despite incidences of incompetence, legal abuse and brutality being regularly highlighted to the government. Andy has lost his business, and has lost four months of his life to what can only be described as despicable police practice. I would like to see the Dubai police employ the equivalent of the UK’s PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) system, and accountability for officers who fail to follow standards of police conduct, evidence protocols and interrogatory procedures and I call on the government of Dubai to respond to this injustice swiftly; Andy should not spend another night in prison, let alone another four months! It is shameful that law enforcement has a rubber stamp to ruin people’s lives, rob children of their parents, and jail innocent persons with impunity. How is it that forced confessions are still standard procedure in the UAE?
Andy’s parents, Sue and Maurice, are worried out of their minds. They are appealing to their MP, Mark Spencer to intervene in Andy’s case and bring him home. While the UK consular service has been unhelpful to the Neal family, the foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has been outspoken in his support for British nationals detained abroad, along with Priti Patel who publicly supported Detained in Dubai’s client Asa Hutchinson. Stirling said “we are calling on the support of Jeremy Hunt and Mark Spencer to stand up for Andy Neal, a man who has dedicated much of his life to supporting the British forces abroad, and who was recovering from PTSD following his service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia”.
Andy has 17 medals and a commendation for saving someone’s life