WASHINGTON // The State Department has said it is "concerned" about the prolonged detention without charge of Zack Shahin, an American businessman who has spent 10 months in custody in Dubai while authorities conduct an investigation into alleged fraud.
"As Mr Shahin approaches one year in jail without formal charges, the embassy and consular general have repeatedly encouraged the Dubai authorities to conduct their investigation in an expeditious and transparent manner, to consider bail for Mr Shahin and present charges in court so that Mr Shahin can mount a defence," said Darby Holladay, a department spokesman.
Dubai"s attorney general, Essam al Humaidan, said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg News that Mr Shahin and others being held "have been granted all the rights under UAE law".
"Additional facts were being revealed in the course of the investigation, and every time we needed an extension we showed the court why we needed more time," he said.
Mr al Humaidan said in a statement earlier this week that the investigation is "close to completion" and that the allegations against Mr Shahin, the former chief executive of the developer Deyaar, were recently widened to include possible money laundering in addition to forgery, embezzlement and fraud. Prosecutors allege that Mr Shahin and three others embezzled more than Dh98m, transferring misappropriated funds between banks in Lebanon, Switzerland and the US.
Mr Holladay also claimed that Mr Shahin was denied access to US diplomats for two weeks after his March 23 2008 arrest, in violation, he said, of an international agreement which stipulates that authorities must allow a foreign national access to his consulate "without delay".
He said that since then consular officials have been in "regular" contact with Mr Shahin.
A UAE official familiar with the investigation said that Mr Shahin had been visited more than 40 times by his family, lawyers and consular officials during his detention.
The state department said it was "gratified" by the news that the investigation is nearing an end.
On Wednesday, an American lawyer for Mr Shahin, James Jatras, alleged at a press conference in Washington that Mr Shahin had been mistreated while in custody. He conceded, however, that there was no direct evidence to support the claims and UAE authorities say the allegations do not even warrant a reply.
The press conference was part of a campaign that included the launch of a website and the purchase of two advertisements in Washington newspapers.
Mr Jatras maintained Mr Shahin"s innocence, claiming that there have been no formal charges and he has not seen any evidence in the case.
Mr al Humaidan explained that Mr Shahin was held for 21 days in line with UAE law, after which his detention was renewed pending his trial by a court order for extensions of a month at a time in view of growing evidence shared with the court.
He stressed that the rights of Mr Shahin and the other accused were guaranteed under UAE law and international regulations governing the detention of foreigners in legal proceedings.