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National Post, April 23, 2009

Shocking video footage shows UAE royal sheikh brutally torturing Afghan man

Tony Buzbee, Mr. Nabulsi’s lawyer in Houston, told ABC, “They would keep him from sleeping, deny him his medications, tell him they were going to rape his wife, kill his child. They made him pose naked while they took pictures.”

By Araminta Wordsworth

A still capture from the video
A photo from the video

Held down by men in police uniform, the half-naked victim screams in pain as another man wearing a white dishdasha brandishes a plank with a nail sticking out the end.

“Get closer, get closer,” he instructs the camera operator as he sets to beating again.

“Let his suffering show.”

But this grisly nighttime scene in the desert is not something comfortably fictional from a movie such as Lawrence of Arabia.

The man directing the action is said to be Sheik Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, a member of the ruling family of the United Arab Emirates. His victim is Mohammed Shah Poor, an Afghan grain dealer, suspected of shortchanging the Emirati royal in a delivery.

The shocking 45-minute tape (watch it here — WARNING: VERY GRAPHIC CONTENT) also shows the victim being assaulted with a cattle prod, sand being pushed into his mouth and salt rubbed into his wounds. In another “sequence,” the assailant fires an automatic weapon at the man, seemingly without hitting him but causing sand to billow around.

Finally, in what the torturer hopes will be the literal coup de grāce, he drives over the body in his silver SUV Mercedes.

It appears the sheik was proud of his performance — which explains why he had the tape made; he also liked to watch the torture sessions later in his palace.

The 45-minute video was smuggled out of the country by Bassam Nabulsi, a former business associate of Sheik Issa and brother of the man behind the camera.

Portions of it were broadcast on Wednesday night on the ABC program Nightline.

The television program did not air other parts of the tape, which it said showed the sheik attacking the victim’s genitals with the cattle prod and inserting it in his anus.

He also pours lighter fuel on the prisoner’s testicles and sets it alight.

The program says the torture, which took place at the sheik’s “ranch” in the desert near Abu Dhabi, was over the theft of a load of grain worth about US$5,000.

Mr. Nabulsi, a Texas businessman, told ABC that Sheik Issa became increasingly violent and sadistic after his father, Sheik Sayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s first president, died in 2004.

“It’s like you flipped a switch and the man took a wrong turn in his life, and started getting violent,” he said.

The video is included as part of evidence in a lawsuit Mr. Nabulsi launched in federal court in Houston last fall. He is suing Sheik Issa for money owed as a result of their business dealings and for false imprisonment.

He claims he was held in jail in Abu Dhabi for three months and tortured by police after he refused to hand over the videotape, which he had been given for safekeeping.

“They were my security, really, to make my case that this man is capable of doing what I say he can do,” Mr. Nabulsi said on Nightline.

Tony Buzbee, Mr. Nabulsi’s lawyer in Houston, told ABC, “They would keep him from sleeping, deny him his medications, tell him they were going to rape his wife, kill his child. They made him pose naked while they took pictures.”

Mr. Nabulsi says he was originally accused of drug trafficking, but the charges were reduced to illegal possession of medication — which turned out to be prescribed by his doctor in the United States.

The UAE government concedes that Sheik Issa is the man shown in the video but says he did nothing wrong. “The incidents depicted in the videotapes were not part of a pattern of behaviour,” the Ministry of the Interior said in a statement, according to ABC.

“All rules, policies and procedures were followed correctly.”

The Interior Minister is Sheik Issa’s half-brother. They are among the country’s 22 royal sheiks.

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said of the UAE response, “If this is their complete reply, then sadly it’s a scam and it’s a sham.”

One of the most alarming aspects of the tape was the involvement of the police, she added. “It is the state that is torturing them if the government does not investigate and prosecute these officers.”

In its 2008 human rights survey, the U.S. State Department referred to the incident. Amazingly, Mr. Poor survived, although he still had to spend months in hospital with broken bones and internal injuries. The UAE says the case is closed as the sheik and the grain dealer settled the matter privately, “by agreeing not to bring formal charges against each other, i.e., theft on the one hand and assault on the other.”

For their part, Sheik Issa’s U.S. lawyers say the ABC story is “grossly misleading,” “demonstrably untrue” and “defamatory.” They want the case transferred to Abu Dhabi.

Category: HR Violations - Views: 23324