--U.S. Legal Counsel to Zack Shahin Urges U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to Publicly Call Upon U.A.E. to Uphold the Rule of Law and Ensure that U.S. Citizen Zack Shahin's Due Process Rights are Not Further Violated–
WASHINGTON, June 7, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. Department of State spokesman Mark Toner sent a clear message to the United Arab Emirates during a June 5, 2012, press briefing when he stated the U.S. government has urged the consolidation of Zack Shahin's pending charges, "so that he's able to defend himself more effectively." Toner's statement follows U.S. Consul General Justin Siberell's May 31, 2012, press release in which he stated "The United States is concerned that he (Shahin) was detained for more than a year without formal charges, and that he has not been released on bail that has been approved in the past. The handling of his case also causes concern about whether Mr. Shahin is receiving equal treatment as measured against other defendants accused of financial crimes in the UAE." It is apparent that both U.S. government foreign service officers' words have fallen upon deaf ears in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Despite Shahin having spent nearly 51 months languishing in a Dubai prison cell without bail, trial, or conviction and facing one 30-day continuance, after another 30-day continuance, with no trial in sight for proving his innocence, the Dubai public prosecutor has apparently filed another criminal charge.
Earlier this week, Dubai filed yet another criminal case against Shahin in Dubai based on the same allegations that had been withdrawn in a Dubai civil court and civil court in Texas. The criminal case, however, is now likely to be pursued with the benefit of documents that were obtained from Zack by using the United States' broad civil discovery rules in the Texas action – exactly as Shahin had predicted and feared.
U.S. legal counsel to Zack Shahin issued the following statement on this latest egregious violation of Zack Shahin's due process rights and the further deterioration of the rule of law in U.A.E.:
"The harassment of Shahin by Dubai continues, unfortunately now abetted by a perversion of the rules of procedure of the courts of the United States to aid in the persecution of a foreign government of a U.S. citizen. The legal system in the United States does not tolerate manipulation of due process rights for the benefit of the state and/or prosecutor when the defendant's rights to a fair trial are imperiled. While the State Department has called for a consolidation of the charges against Zack, it seems as though the U.A.E. government and Dubai's prosecutors are unwilling to listen. It is time that Attorney General Eric Holder speaks out against Dubai's Texas Two-Step around the U.S. legal system by using a Texas state court as an investigative arm for its latest criminal investigation against Zack. Without filing and then withdrawing its civil suit against Zack in Houston, Dubai would not have the benefit of the documents obtained by using U.S. civil discovery rules. Attorney General Holder must be sickened by this perversion of justice and we urge him to speak his mind publicly about U.A.E.'s transgression and disregard for due process, since the State Department's senior leadership is apparently unwilling to do so."
Following his arrest in 2008, the harassment of Shahin and his family continued further when in August 2010, Shahin's former employer, Deyaar, filed a civil lawsuit against Shahin in Dubai seeking a judgment of over $23 million (U.S.) based on a real estate transaction in Houston, Texas. This real estate purchase had been submitted to and approved by Deyaar's Board Chairman, who had written authority to act for the Board. Continuing its harassment, Deyaar (through a wholly- owned U.S. subsidiary with no employees or operations in Texas) then filed in Texas the exact civil complaint with the identical allegations as the Dubai suit. Deyaar sought the same damages against Shahin in Houston, Texas. Deyaar also sought to freeze bank accounts held by Shahin's wife, which have been providing the only means of support for her and her children during Shahin's captivity. That request was denied by the Texas court. Nevertheless, yet another frivolous lawsuit had to be defended and costs incurred to defend Shahin.
Dubai is a civil law system that, unlike the American system, does not provide for broad discovery of or by parties to lawsuits. A party to a lawsuit in the United States can be compelled to testify at a deposition, to produce documents, and to answer interrogatory requests in writing and under oath. Recognizing this, in late 2008, Deyaar used the employee-less, operation-less Texas-based subsidiary that was formed shortly before Shahin's arrest to file a civil lawsuit against Shahin in a Texas state court.
The Texas case was entirely duplicative of the criminal allegations against Shahin in Dubai, and moreover, of the civil case described above that Deyaar had previously filed against Shahin in Dubai -- with one key difference: in the Texas case, Deyaar would have been entitled to American-style discovery from Shahin that neither it nor the government could obtain in Dubai. The existence of duplicative lawsuits strongly implies that the Texas case was asserted not for any legitimate purpose, but to harass Shahin, to punish him by depleting his few remaining resources, and to use the American legal system as a tool to advance the criminal and civil cases against Shahin in Dubai.
Notably, neither the government of Dubai nor Deyaar itself were parties to the Texas litigation. Thus, they had no reciprocal obligations to provide discovery to Shahin related to the criminal or civil claims against him in Dubai. By relying on the corporate shield provided by Deyaar's Texas holding company, Deyaar effectively made discovery in the Texas case a one- way street, where the government of Dubai, through its proxies, sought to obtain incriminating discovery from Shahin while refusing to produce exculpatory information.
Zack Shahin was forced into a Hobson's choice: either testify in the Texas civil case and give the Dubai government information that it could not otherwise have obtained to use against him in the Dubai criminal proceeding, or assert the only remaining right he had as a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Dubai and refused to testify pursuant to the Fifth Amendment. If he refused to testify, he risked an adverse inference being held against him in the Texas civil suit. Nonetheless, Deyaar pushed to take Zack's deposition at the Dubai prison where he is held. At the last minute, and possibly fearing what Zack would testify to regarding his treatment by Dubai, the Dubai government refused to allow Zack to testify under oath – wasting tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and expenses. As his lawyers were about to argue for a dismissal of the Texas case, Deyaar withdrew the case in Texas against Shahin. This dismissal came within a few days of Deyaar also dismissing its civil case in Dubai against Shahin. One must wonder if these civil suits were brought just to harass Shahin and break him financially.
Zack Shahin should not have been forced to make this choice. The Dubai government and Deyaar should not have been permitted to take advantage of the United States court system and its limited resources to further abuses of an American citizen who has been convicted of no crimes.