Dear [Name of Representative or Senator],
As your constituent, I am writing about Zack Shahin, an American citizen who has been imprisoned without an upheld conviction for nearly six years in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). I am asking that officials of our government – who have spoken out on numerous occasions on behalf of prisoners in many countries, including non-U.S. citizens – publicly and forcefully insist that Zack be freed, now that he has been acquitted in one case and in another, the conviction has been overturned by an appeals court.
In March 2008, Zack, CEO of Deyaar Realty in United Arab Emirates, was detained by Dubai security forces. The violent arrest was perpetrated in front of Zack's horrified wife and children. For 16 days, Zack was held incommunicado. His family did not know if he was dead or alive. Meanwhile, Zack was tortured, his home was ransacked, and his family was threatened. This was followed by long months of imprisonment, during which Zack’s health – already poor before his arrest – has worsened.
Zack has hardly been accorded any decent minimum of due process. When, after months of detention, he was finally informed of the baseless charges against him, he was not given any opportunity to show his innocence. Instead, he was brought to court as many as 200 times for absurd procedural matters – at “hearings” lasting as little as 30 seconds – and faced continuance after continuance. Even after he was released on bail in 2012, threats against Shahin continued, and he was re-arrested.
Perhaps the worst thing of all – and the reason I am writing to you now – is that in his desperate plight Zack has reason to feel abandoned by his own government. Every day we see headlines about U.S. officials’ very public expressions of concerns about detainees in various countries. Some of these people are accused of criminal activities, others are accused of political offences. Some are Americans, but many are not. But the important point is that our officials have been willing to make their treatment a public issue with the government which is holding them. American officials have been reluctant to do the same regarding Zack’s treatment by UAE/Dubai. While some American officials did speak out against violations of Shahin’s due process, which ultimately did help Shahin obtain bail, U.S. governments have remained silent since his re-arrest and have not lobbied for his release despite Shahin’s acquittal and successful appeal of a prior conviction.
The Emiratis have no difficulty in deciphering the meaning of this silence. They know that when the United States is serious about prisoners, American or not, in other countries, U.S. officials are not afraid to offend foreign governments by holding them publicly accountable. In Zack’s case, they read the same message, but in reverse: American officials don’t care about Zack. If they did, they’d speak up for him. UAE is just too important to the United States’ commercial and strategic interests to trouble with the fate of this one suffering American . . .
This is intolerable. Zack should not have to die in captivity before our government stands up for him. I strongly urge you use your voice and office to speak out publicly on Zack’s behalf. I also urge you to contact President Barack Obama, Secretary John Kerry, and other relevant U.S. officials, and ask that they do likewise.
You can download the letter in Microsof Word format (.doc) here.