Dear [Name of Representative or Senator],
As your constituent, I am writing about Zack Shahin, an American citizen who has been imprisoned without trial for over four 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 given due process: release on bail and the opportunity to clear his name.
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 never 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 has been brought to court as many as 200 times for absurd procedural matters – at “hearings” lasting as little as 30 seconds – but never given a trial. In place of actual release on bail, which would allow him access to his family and ability to pursue his defense, he has been subjected to a clearly manipulative farce – repeated “release” on “bond” followed be a new “arrest.” He has every reason to think the real reason for his suffering is to serve as a scapegoat for a well-placed local.
But 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, 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 never been willing to do the same regarding Zack’s treatment by UAE/Dubai. While U.S. consular officials have “correctly” followed his case as a “citizen welfare” matter, and while private “representations” have been given to UAE officials in writing or in person, there never has been one public utterance by any U.S. official about the plight of this suffering American!
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 Hillary Clinton, and other relevant U.S. officials, and ask that they do likewise.
You can download the letter in Microsof Word format (.doc) here.