U.S. urges UAE to free American businessman on bail

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 29, 2012 5:57 AM
U.S. urges UAE to free American businessman on bail

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - The United States on Friday urged the United Arab Emirates to release on bail an American businessman accused of embezzlement who has been on hunger strike for six weeks, and to deal with his case in a "transparent manner".

Zack Shahin has been in detention since he was arrested in 2008 while at the helm of the Dubai real estate firm Deyaar. There have been hearings in his case in Dubai, but no judgment.

"After more than six weeks, obviously there are serious concerns about Mr. Shahin's health," the U.S. charge d'affaires in the UAE, L. Victor Hurtado, said in a statement.

"We continue to urge the authorities to release him on bail, as has been approved but not carried out in the past. In addition, we urge that the several outstanding pending cases against Mr. Shahin can be consolidated, allowing him to defend himself more effectively."

The United States is concerned, among other things, that Shahin, who was not formally charged for over a year, may have been treated worse than others accused of financial crimes in the UAE, Hurtado said.

U.S. officials have repeatedly raised the case with UAE officials and urged the UAE to conduct the case in an "expeditious and transparent manner", he added.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan met U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Wednesday.

In May, four other expatriates jailed in Dubai said they were among a group of prisoners who had gone on hunger strike to protest against the lengthy prison sentences handed down to most of them for financial crimes.

The men, most of them real estate developers and other businessmen who worked in Dubai during its economic boom, fell into debt when the emirate's property bubble burst after the 2008 global credit crisis.

(Reporting by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Kevin Liffey)