Two British men formerly detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are campaigning to prevent a senior Emirati official from becoming the next president of the International Criminal Police Organization, commonly known as Interpol, accusing him of personal involvement in their detention and torture.
The accusations were made against Major General Ahmed Naser al-Raisi, an inspector general at the Emirati Interior Ministry and a member of Interpol’s executive committee.
“He is absolutely responsible for torture. The message his candidacy sends is that not only can you do this and get away with it, but be rewarded,” said Matthew Hedges, who was imprisoned in the Persian Gulf country for seven months on alleged charges of espionage.
Football fan Ali Issa Ahmad, who was detained while on holiday in Dubai for wearing a Qatar football shirt, said “I have personally suffered torture and abuse under his command.”
The two British citizens filed a lawsuit against Raisi in a Turkish court.
Interpol member states will choose a new director following a vote in Istanbul on Thursday. Raisi is competing with Interpol Vice President for Europe Šárka Havránková for the post.
“We have evidence that Raisi was involved in torture. We’re organizing this press meeting at the hotel where he [Raisi] is staying,” Rodney Dixon QC, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said in an Istanbul press conference on Monday.
“The UAE has done absolutely nothing following investigation requests from the attorney as well as from the UK government. The UAE has ignored all requests,” he added.
Hedges, who was given a life sentence but was later handed a presidential pardon following pressure from the UK government, told journalists that he still doesn’t know what charges were leveled against him.
“He [Raisi] has allowed all these things to happen to me. It’s impossible that he was not aware of what was going on,” he said.
Hedges called on Interpol member states to cast their votes elsewhere.
Ahmad, the other plaintiff, said he was taken to an unknown location and given no right to make a phone call following his arrest by UAE security forces.
He said a police officer asked him angrily why he was wearing a T-shirt with the Qatari flag. Then, the policeman attempted to cut the flag out of the T-shirt, causing injuries to his body as well.
“They took me to a hospital for treatment but later brought me back to the detention center, continuing torture,” Ahmad said.
He finally managed to call one of his friends in London to inform the British embassy. He was finally freed following pressure from the diplomatic mission but all of his belongings, including his passport, were held.
Earlier this month, a number of German lawmakers signed a petition, expressing their “deep concern” regarding the nomination of Raisi, who is on his way to becoming the head of the Lyon-based international police agency, the London-based Arabi21 news website reported.
The signatories said Raisi’s appointment to the post “would put the reputation of the international organization in danger.”
The German MPs called on Interpol members to “frankly stand up against Raisi’s nomination” and urged a transparent measure for the nomination of Interpol director that would allow for human rights to be taken into account.