DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A defense attorney for two Libyan-Americans imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates said Monday the U.S. government can do more to ensure they receive greater medical attention and are released.
Greg Craig said in a call with reporters that although U.S. officials have raised the case with Emirati decision makers, his clients were tortured and are not receiving the medical care they need.
"I always believe that the government can do more. These are American citizens. They were tortured. They are innocent," Craig said. "They were taken arbitrarily and subjected to months of interrogation without access to counsel or to their family."
The case involves Libyan-American Kamal Eldarat, 59; his son Mohammed Eldarat, 34; Libyan-Canadian Sami Alaradi, 46; and Libyan national Issa Almanna. All were longtime residents in the UAE and successful businessmen.
The four have been under arrest since August 2014, around the time that reports emerged of the UAE leading airstrikes against Islamic rebel groups in Libya.
The UAE, a federation of seven emirates that includes Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is a close political and military ally of the United States in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi hosts U.S. troops taking part in the coalition campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said Thursday that the prosecutor in the case is charging the four with "supporting armed terrorist groups without permission from the UAE government." He said Washington has raised the case with Emirati officials, particularly the allegations of mistreatment.
In a letter to the State Department seen by The Associated Press, Craig says Toner's assessment is incorrect and that the terrorism charges were withdrawn by prosecutors last month. He said Toner's inaccuracy "does enormous damage to these two innocent Americans."
The four were initially charged in January 2016 with knowingly financing two Libyan rebel groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, considered a terrorist organization under UAE law.
Those terrorism charges were dropped and they now face charges of illegally raising funds for a foreign entity, said defense lawyers.
The Eldarats and their co-defendants face a maximum 15-year prison sentence if found guilty. A verdict is expected May 30.
The defendants acknowledge raising money for humanitarian supplies for the Libyan National Transitional Council with documented approval from the UAE government. The NTC headed the internationally-backed Libyan opposition to longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi during the 2011 uprising and then governed Libya for a period of time after he was killed.