On Monday, Feb. 3, a Dubai court is slated to decide the fate of a Qatari doctor accused of collaborating with a banned political group there.
With just days to go before the verdict, Dr. Mahmood Abdulrehman Al Jaidah’s supporters are still working to see him freed, launching a new website in his name and urging the international community to put pressure on the UAE government about the case.
Despite these efforts, Fahad Ansari, spokesman for Cage Prisoners, a group that works on cases in which people appear to be arbitrarily detained, told Doha News that the team is not optimistic.
“It seems a foregone conclusion that Dr. Al Jaidah will be convicted if the judicial process is permitted to run its course. We are bracing ourselves for a conviction on Monday which would be in the brutal spirit with which these political trials are being prosecuted.”
If Al Jaidah is convicted, he would have no avenue for appeal.
But Ansari added that the team has not given up yet. Last month, for example, one of Al Jaidah’s sons met with UN Special Rapporteur Gabriela Knaul during her visit to Qatar to examine the country’s judiciary system.
Abdulrahman Al Jaidah, 25, told Knaul about being briefly detained in the UAE in December following one of his father’s hearings. During that 24-hour time period, he said he was tortured and questioned about a short film he helped make with Cage to raise awareness about his father’s case.
To secure his release, he signed documents apologizing to the UAE for embarrassing the government and promised not to contact Cage or any other human rights organization in future, Cage said in a statement.
Knaul is now in the UAE to examine its judicial system, and has been sent a letter outlining more details about Al Jaidah’s detention, Ansari said. According to Cage:
Dr. Al Jaidah has appeared in court on seven occasions. He has been represented by four different lawyers due to the fact that on each occasion, his lawyer has dropped his case without explanation. We can only speculate whether this is due to intimidation. Neither his current lawyer nor his previous lawyers were permitted to visit him in prison or privately consult with him and the only time they have seen him is in open court.
If Knaul were to mention Al Jaidah’s case in her press briefing in Abu Dhabi this week, “it would really raise the pressure on the UAE to release him,” Ansari said.
Al Jaidah, director of medical services at Qatar Petroleum, was arrested nearly a year ago while transiting through the Dubai airport. He was formally charged in November with supporting the Al Islah group, a banned organization in the UAE tied to the Muslim Brotherhood – a charge he has denied.
Though Al Jaidah is no longer being held in a “secret prison,” as he was during the first several months of his detention, international advocacy groups are still expressing concerns about his treatment in jail.
Last month, Amnesty International released a statement decrying what appeared to “increasingly humiliating treatment” of the doctor.
The group said that Al Jaidah faced strip-searches each time he returned from court hearings, and was sometimes forced to sit naked for hours before being allowed to enter his cell. The tactic was “an attempt to lower his spirits,” Amnesty said.
Meanwhile, Cage has been drumming up support for Al Jaidah among the international medical community, so far securing nearly 200 signatures from doctors in a petition asking for his fair trial or release.
The next court hearing will be on Monday, when a ruling is expected. Thoughts?