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Obama Administration Talks the Talk When it Comes to Human Rights, But Does Not Walk the Walk in the Case of a U.S. Citizen Imprisoned Since 2008 Without an Upheld Conviction, Says U.S. Legal Counsel for Zack Shahin

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, March 20, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the six year anniversary of his imprisonment without an upheld conviction draws near, U.S. citizen Zack Shahin once again renews his pleas to the U.S. government for assistance in calling upon Dubai authorities to free him from prison. Despite Zack Shahin having one case acquitted and a conviction overturned by an appeals court, the Obama administration has turned a blind eye on one of the more serious human rights abuse cases against a U.S. citizen at the hands of a supposed American ally – the United Arab Emirates.

A review of reports in the United States Department of State annual review of "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013," confirm that the legal system in Dubai is fraught with political influence by the executive branch of government in Dubai. In the State Department's report, under "Denial of Fair Public Trial," the U.S. government clearly points out: "The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, court decisions remained subject to review by the political leadership and suffered from nepotism.  There were reports that the State Security Department intervened in judicial affairs. The judiciary consists largely of  contracted foreign nationals subject to potential deportation, further compromising its independence from the government.  There was no functional separation between the executive and judicial branches.  By tradition the local rulers' offices, or diwans, maintained the practice of reviewing criminal and civil offenses before they referred cases to prosecutors. They also reviewed sentences judges passed, returned cases to the court on appeal if they did not approve of the verdicts, and had to approve the release of every prisoner who had completed a sentence.  The diwans' involvement-usually in cases between two citizens or between a citizen and a noncitizen-led to lengthy delays prior to and following the judicial process and lengthened the time defendants served in prison.  Authorities considered a diwan's decision in any court case as final.  If a judge and a diwan disagreed, the diwan's decision prevailed."

U.S. legal counsel for Zack Shahin stated: "Despite the U.A.E.'s reported track record of denying a fair public trial, the Obama administration seems unwilling to ruffle the feathers of the leaders of the Emirate for fear of jeopardizing the economic prosperity the two governments have seen since the recovery from the recession of 2008.  Perhaps not coincidentally, this period of renewed economic growth overlaps with the time Shahin was imprisoned for alleged improprieties as C.E.O. of one of the leading developers of Dubai successful businesses."

"For years, the U.S. government has continued to report on the abuses to human rights and the rule of law in reviewing the condition of the legal system in the U.A.E. Time and again it points out the political control by the executive branch of the government in interfering with a fair and just system of law, and by its control of the judges, many of whom are from other countries and are fearful of losing their visas if they rule in favor of an innocent defendant. But they decline to point out how these flaws, tainted with political overtones, are obvious in Zack's cases."

Moreover, the State Department continues to criticize the lack of procedural fairness and pre-trial release secured by bail, which Shahin was granted, only to be threatened with death, after the last State Department comment on his release in 2012.  Since then, and for unknown reasons, the U.S. government has remained silent, if only to appease the dysfunctional legal process in Dubai to take its course, six years after Shahin entered the prison system in Dubai.

U.S. legal counsel to Zack Shahin continued: "intolerable as it may seem to any defendant in the U.S. legal system to remain incarcerated without charges, absent a Riverside hearing (requiring the prosecution to prove verifiable grounds for continued detention until charges are filed), it is apparent that Zack's government stands idly by without asking for a reason for his continued detention for more than thirty days, unless a judge continues the detention.  Where are the hundreds of orders of continued detention for the past six years, which Dubai law requires?" As reported by the State Department in its report of human rights practices in the U.A.E., "The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, there were reports that the government held persons in official custody without charge or a preliminary judicial hearing.  The Ministry of Interior detained foreign residents arbitrarily at times.  The law indirectly permits indefinite, routine, and incommunicado detention without appeal through exceptions for state security and extensions of detention.  Authorities determined whether detainees could contact attorneys, family members, or others after an indefinite or unspecified period."

As reported to his attorneys, since his arrest in 2008, Zack Shahin has constantly asked U.S. consular officials based in Dubai to push authorities for a fair and speedy trial, to no avail. And only through his production of verifiable facts showing his innocence, rather than disproving his guilt, has Shahin shown the charges against him to be false. "This is contrary to all concepts of law, not only in our system, but in the questionable legal process in Dubai," said Eric J. Akers, American legal counsel for Zack. "Fairness to reasonable charges is one thing.  Politically driven accusations against an American businessman seeking to promote a developing economy and accused of causing the downturn in the economy of Dubai reeks of blaming the messenger rather than seeking the message."

About Zack Shahin's Plight Since His March 2008 Arrest and Imprisonment:
March 23, 2014, will mark the six-year anniversary of Zack Shahin's arrest.  Except for the brief period following his release on bail in July 2012 and return that September, he has remained imprisoned without an upheld conviction.  In early 2013, Zack was acquitted on the first of four criminal cases against him, all of which stem from the same baseless accusations concerning his tenure as CEO of Deyaar, a Dubai-based real estate company.  The prosecutor unsuccessfully appealed this decision and the not-guilty verdict was upheld.  In March 2013, Zack and co-defendants were found guilty of embezzlement and received a 15-year sentence. Zack immediately appealed the conviction and the Dubai Court of Appeals overturned the court's decision.

Despite an appeals court overturning Shahin's guilty verdict and a cassation court upholding another not-guilty verdict, after four years of court appearances and continuances, and an obvious strategic maneuver by the Dubai government to deny U.S. citizen Zack Shahin his due process right to a trial, Washington continues to tread lightly.

For more information on Zack Shahin's arrest, visit  U.S. legal counsel for Zack Shahin are Eric Akers and James Jatras.

SOURCE U.S. Legal Counsel for Zack Shahin

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