AN American businessman is on a hunger strike after allegedly being tortured in a hellish Dubai jail during a 47-year prison term for fraud, say human rights campaigners.
Diabetic Texan Zack Shahin, 57, is “broken and beaten”, and suffers a raft of health problems from years of neglect, warns Detained International.
An ex-PepsiCo executive, Zack was arrested in 2008 on suspicions he embezzled millions of dollars while CEO of Dubai-based property developer Deyaar.
The Houston man is believed to be one of the longest-serving American overseas white-collar prisoners in the world, says Detained International (DI).
The human rights group has been appointed to advise him and his family in his near two-decade long fight for justice in Dubai.
Zack “will die in jail”, according to Martin Lonergan, chief operations officer of Detained.
The UK-based man told the Sun Online: “Zack was caught in a local corruption scandal and was the scapegoat.
“He was illegally detained for nine years without conviction. Zack is being held in jail in Dubai, and being subjected to torture.
“Zack’s body is broken and beaten, and they have failed to deliver his medication – he is on blood pressure medication, has diabetes, he has a raft of health problems.
“He has spent months in hospital having trauma damage repairs; he is getting a good kicking.
“Zack is old now, so they neglect him, he has poor food, and is imprisoned in freezing conditions – you wouldn’t keep a dog in there.”
Martin says he has personally witnessed Zack’s condition, as he was detained in the same prison.
But he was lucky to be released after intervention from the Irish Embassy, and “there was no case against me”.
He said: “Zack lived most of his life in the US, worked for PepsiCola. His wife still lives in Houston, and his two children, who are in their mid-twenties, are both in university in America.
“He was sentenced for breach of trust – he was an exec for Pepsi for many years in the region, but was appointed CEO of a property firm, Deyaar, owned by the Dubai Islamic Bank.
“Zack took the firm public for the bank and it turned into the second largest property development company in the region.
“And in 2008, when a witchhunt went on among senior Emiratis, who ultimately were never jailed, he was held, detained and tortured for nine years and eventually convicted of breach of trust.
“He has been jailed for 14 years and has another 33 years to go.
“They may extend it further, if he can’t pay back the money he’s alleged to have embezzled. They have claimed US$30million was taken.”
Zack was held in arbitrary detention for nine years until 2016 when the Dubai courts sentenced him to 47 years for “breach of trust”.
But Martin alleged that “there is no trace of the money, the auditors never found it in Zack’s possession or anywhere.
“He wasn’t local, and someone has to go to jail. He is sentenced to die in jail.”
Martin added that while he was personally detained “for a period in Dubai, I saw men dying around me of Covid, while detained in inhuman, degrading conditions, it’s horrendous.
“He was in the cell next door to me.
“Zack is living on slops and rice; the lights are on 24 hours a day, there is no fresh air, and he is never allowed outside.
“How has he survived so long? I don’t know. He exists.
“Zack looked horrendous, he’s dying, he’s now going on hunger strike.
“He’s written to the US embassy on May 27th, to say that he’s on hunger strike.”
The embassy has been told that Zack has allegedly “been subjected to torture, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance”.
The Sun has sought comment from the US embassy in Dubai, and the US Department of State.
When confirming his hunger strike to the US Consulate General in Dubai’s, Charles McClellan, Zack wrote in a heart-wrenching letter: “Post 14 years of injustice, ill-treatment, mental and physical torture and relentless fight, I have finally accepted that I will not depart this place standing on my feet nor be allowed to live in peace.
“I have endured all the physical pain and mental suffering that I was able to.
“With no foreseen end to this ongoing battle, I have commenced a hunger strike and suspended all medical intake, water suspension to follow.”
Jordan Schneider, director of US operations at DI said: “As a fellow American, I am appalled at the grave abuses of his human rights Zack is suffering at the hands of Dubai.
“I am thankful myself and the wider team at Detained are able to provide support and assistance to Zack and his family in their fight for his freedom and ultimately his life.”
Source: The Sun