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Ahmad Zeidan, British Student, Jailed For Nine Years For Cocaine Possession In United Arab Emirates

02/06/2014 17:08 BST | Updated 03/06/2014 12:59 BST
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Skyscrapers stand on the city skyline beyond a jet skier passing close to the shore in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, Aug. 12, 2013. As Dubai recovers from its slump caused by the global financial meltdown, Abu Dhabi is expanding faster, according to figures from their governments published last month and building projects and tourism mean the non-oil economy has overtaken Dubai's entire output, the data showed. Photographer: Duncan Chard/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A British student, who claims he was tortured by police after being arrested in the United Arab Emirates, has been jailed for nine years for possessing cocaine worth less than £5. Ahmad Zeidan, 20, of Berkshire, claims he was tortured into signing a confession after being arrested in December.

Kate Higham, an investigator with the legal charity Reprieve, described last week's conviction at a hearing in Dubai as "the result of a shockingly flawed trial process" as Zeidan claims he was held incommunicado for several days when he was hooded, beaten, and threatened with rape.

The drugs - 0.04g of cocaine with a British street value of about £3 - were found in a bag in a glove compartment. Reprieve, which claims it has uncovered evidence of a systematic pattern of torture in UAE prisons, has sent a dossier to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture on behalf of 19 prisoners.

It details a pattern of abuse that includes hooding, beatings, threats of rape and extended periods of solitary confinement. Ms Higham said: "The UAE must urgently reconsider Ahmad's case, while the British government must do all it can to push for his release."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware that a British National has received a custodial sentence in the United Arab Emirates. We are providing consular assistance."

In a statement, released through Reprieve, Zeidan complained that he did not understand what he was signing. He said: "I explained to him that while I speak some Arabic, I cannot read or write it, as it is not my mother tongue. He kept asking me technical questions in Arabic that I did not understand.

"The prosecutor said I was considered the 'middle man' and they then started saying I was a trafficker. I was made to sign documents in Arabic, a language which I cannot not read nor write. I now understand that I am being charged with possession of a narcotic substance with the intention to traffic."