A source close to the investigation said, on Wednesday, that the French authorities had opened a case against the head of the UAE Interpol, Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi, over accusations of torture and arbitrary arrest brought by two British detainees in the country.
The source, who asked not to be named, told AFP that the case of suspected complicity in torture by a high-ranking Emirati official, had been referred by French anti-terror prosecutors to an investigative judge who will now decide whether to press charges.
The two Britons, Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmed, accuse the president of ultimate responsibility – as a senior Home Office security official – for the torture and arbitrary detention they say they suffered in the UAE.
The source said the investigative judge must also decide whether the president, who was elected head of Interpol in November, enjoys diplomatic immunity from prosecution in France.
The British filed the complaint on the basis of universal jurisdiction, which allows countries to prosecute serious crimes even if they were committed on foreign soil.
The opening of this case against Al Raisi goes a step further than the investigation into the torture that French prosecutors opened against him in November, over the arrest of Emirati dissident Ahmed Mansoor.
At the time, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed complaints about Mansoor’s detention conditions as “baseless.”
In the latter case, the investigation is now in the hands of the investigating judge, a step before any charges are brought.
This means that the chief is likely to be detained for questioning in France if he visits the country. The headquarters of Interpol is located in Lyon, in the southeast of France.
He is already believed to have visited Lyon several times since January.
The source added that the case was opened at the end of March.
The two prosecutors were in Paris on Wednesday to testify before the investigating judge.
Hedges says he was detained and tortured in the UAE from May to November 2018 after being arrested on false charges of spying during a study trip.
Sentenced to life imprisonment, he was eventually released after international pressure led by the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Ahmed says he was repeatedly beaten and even stabbed during a month in detention in January 2019, allegedly for his enthusiastic support of Emirati Gulf opponent Qatar in a football match.
In a statement, Hedges said it was a “real proud moment” to testify to the judge about the torture he said he was subjected to.
He said, “Looking at the UAE’s human rights record, it was astonishing that Al Raisi was elected president. The torture that Ali, me and countless other people have suffered in the Emirates is unfortunately the norm in the Emirates.”
“I have often given up hope that the master and all the other men who have done this to me will get away with it, but today is a good day,” Ahmed said.
Al Raisi’s four-year tenure at Interpol is largely ceremonial, with Secretary-General Jürgen Stock taking over the day-to-day management of the organisation.
His candidacy for the position of Interpol sparked resentment from activists, who pointed out the generous funding that Interpol receives from the United Arab Emirates.
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