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Middle East
Belgian halts hunger strike in Dubai
Businessman jailed over bounced cheque agrees to resume eating after prosecutors promise to re-examine his case.
Last Modified: 16 May 2012 12:15
Oliver Loeb would need to be pardoned by Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum [EPA]

A Belgian man has agreed to halt his hunger strike, after United Arab Emirates authorities promised that they would reconsider his case.

Oliver Loeb, a 51-year-old Belgian businessman, is serving a three-year sentence in a Dubai prison for bouncing cheques after an investor did not pay up on a business deal.

He was taken to hospital on Tuesday and was placed on a glucose drip after he collapsed. He had begun his hunger strike on April 18.

The chief prosecutor met the Belgian hunger striker that day, a source familiar with the case told Al Jazeera, and he agreed to resume food and drink for one week. Loeb remains very weak.

During this time, the authorities have promised to review the case. It would require a pardon from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and vice-president of the UAE, for the case to be dropped.

"They promised him that they would do something within this time," the source said.

While the prosecutors did not give specific details of what action they would take, Loeb had chosen to "give them the benefit of the doubt", the Dubai-based source said.

Under the UAE penal code, it is against the law to issue a cheque in "bad faith" or in malicious intent, if the person is aware that they do not have enough funds to honour the cheque.

He has vowed to refuse food and water again in seven days if they fail to deliver on their promise.

More hunger strikers

There are at least 16 other foreign nationals currently imprisoned in the UAE who are on hunger strike, including people from Britain, Ireland, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.

On Monday, Zack Shahin, a US citizen who has been incarcerated in Dubai since 2008 without bail, trial or conviction, became the latest prisoner to joined the hunger strike.

Shahin, a former top executive at Deyaar Development, is one of 10 former employees of the real-estate company arrested on allegations of corruption, forgery and breach of trust. He denies the charges and has called on the US to take a firmer stance in his case.

"I have been imprisoned for over 1,500 days," Shahin said in a message posted on Monday to a website lobbying for his release.

"My government has never said a word about me publicly, because they don’t want to spoil their comfortable relationship here. Meanwhile, they speak out for people in lots of other countries, like China. Do I have to die here before I get the same consideration?"

The UAE justice ministry and public prosecutor’s office did not respond to Al Jazeera's request for comment on either case.

For more background on the hunger strikers, click here.

You can follow Yasmine Ryan on Twitter: @yasmineryan

Source:
Al Jazeera
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