France opens torture investigation against Emirati Interpol president
Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi has been accused of arbitrary detention and torture of two Britons.
On Wednesday, a source close to the investigation revealed that French authorities have opened a case against Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi, UAE's Interpol president, over accusations of torture and arbitrary detention filed by two British citizens who were detained in the country.
French anti-terror prosecutors have been handling the case, which looks into suspicions of complicity in torture, which was extended down to an investigating magistrate that will be deciding on pressing charges or not, according to the source to AFP.
The two British citizens, Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmad, accuse the Interpol president of having direct responsibility of the arbitrary detention and torture that the two citizens endured in the UAE.
Read more: Torture complaint filed against Emirati Interpol president
The source will also be looking into whether Al-Raisi enjoys diplomatic immunity from prosecution in France. Al-Raisi was elected Interpol president in November.
The two victims filed the lawsuit with universal jurisdiction, allowing states to prosecute serious crimes even if they were committed on foreign soil.
France's opening of the investigation takes the previous torture investigation up a notch, particularly against the backdrop of the case opened last November over the torture of UAE dissident Ahmed Mansoor.
In October 2020, 19 NGOs, including #HRW, expressed concern about the possible appointment of al-Raisi, whom they described as being "part of a security apparatus that continues to systematically target peaceful critics.#Interpol pic.twitter.com/eCHosNrxfq— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) November 29, 2021
Abu Dhabi, at the time, rejects claims of Mansoor's detention conditions.
Currently, the case is being handled by the investigating magistrate, which is the phase that comes just before any charges could be pressed.
If charges are pressed, it could be the case that Al-Raisi gets detained for interrogation in France in any case he visits the country - the Interpol's headquarters are in Lyon. Since January, Al-Raisi has visited the southeastern city many times.
On Wednesday, both plaintiffs stood to testify before the investigating magistrate.
Hedges, arrested on charges of espionage during a study trip, said he was detained and tortured in the UAE from May to November 2018. He was sentenced to life in prison before eventually being released by UK-led international pressure.
Ali Issa Ahmad also said he was beaten multiple times and stabbed during a month in UAE detention in January 2019, for supporting the UAE's rival, Qatar, in a football clash.
"Given the human rights record of the UAE it was incredible that Al-Raisi was even elected as president. The torture that myself, Ali, and countless other people in the UAE have suffered is unfortunately the norm in the UAE," Hedges said.
On his part, Issa Ahmad said, "So many times I have lost hope that Al-Raisi and all the other men that did this to me would get away with it with total impunity, but today is a good day."