Crime and Courts

Dubai jail inmates go on hunger strike

Mustafa Al Zaaroni And Amira Agarib
Filed on November 1, 2013
Dubai jail inmates go on hunger strike

Officials say only a few of the inmates are on strike, prisoners say pardoning system is unfair.

Several inmates at the Dubai Central Jail in Al Aweer have gone on a hunger strike complaining about the pardoning system, Khaleej Times has learnt.

One of the prisoners on fast, an Egyptian serving a life term for possessing drugs, died after his health deteriorated fast, but this was not confirmed by officials, who said only a few inmates are on hunger strike, while inmates who sent their photos to Khaleej Times said hundreds of them are on strike.

Sources said the prisoners, estimated at more than one thousand, went on a hunger strike six days ago, after complaining that only 346 inmates were pardoned during Ramadan this year.

A prisoner, who called from the jail criticised the pardoning system, saying only certain prisoners were being offered the pardon, even re-offending ones.

There have also been complaints about the prolonged delay in releasing prisoners who have already served their sentences.

A number of prisoners who contacted Khaleej Times have sent in their photos to confirm that they are still on hunger strike.

One inmate, M.A., said there is no criteria for giving people pardons and this has affected the morale within the prison.

He alleged that an Egyptian inmate, H.A., who was sentenced to life for possessing a small quantity of drugs, died at the prison’s clinic just a few days after going on hunger strike, when his health quickly deteriorated.

Another inmate said he learnt that prisoners in the women’s jail had begun a hunger strike on Wednesday. 31-year-old UAE national prisoner M., who was sentenced to four years in jail, said the authorities need to give priority to UAE nationals who were sentenced for drug use.

“Drug users are victims who need to be treated. If they are imprisoned, their lives will be destroyed,” he said.

He urged authorities to increase the number of inmates who were pardoned, especially those who prove to have a good conduct while serving their time.

Prisoner S., who is serving a life sentence, said the majority of prisoners who have been put away for drug-related crimes are drug traffickers, rather than distributors, adding that sometimes, this number accounts for 80 per cent of the prisoners.

Earlier several prisoners had been on fast, demanding changes in the drug laws and pardon system and at that time, Director of the General Department of Punitive and Correctional Establishments (Dubai Central Jail) of Dubai Police Major-General Mohammed Humaid Al Suwaidi, told Khaleej Times the pardoning of prisoners does not come under the police’s authority. He said the Public Prosecution and Dubai Courts are the bodies responsible for ordering the release of prisoners.

Regarding foreign prisoners, he said representatives of diplomatic missions of countries visit the prisoners every week, and it is up to them to deal with the issues raised by the prisoners.

“If the prisoners have any demands, let them inform their embassies, which should then raise them with the Public Prosecution and Dubai Courts.”

The Dubai Central Jail’s concern is to provide good treatment and health services to the inmates, he said.

“We are rehabilitating the prisoners. The police are committed to performing their duties in a humane manner. We treat them the way we wish others will treat us.”

An official at the Dubai Central Jail told Khaleej Times that some prisoners, but not all, had submitted a list of demands to the managing body.

Officials of the Dubai Public Prosecution visited Al Aweer Central Jail on Wednesday and held talks with the prisoners and appealed to them to end their fast.

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