A United Arab Emirates (UAE) security chief, accused of being responsible for the torture of a British academic and a football fan, is seeking to become the new head of Interpol, according to a report published on Thursday by the Daily Telegraph newspaper in the UK.
Two British citizens, who talked to the newspaper, accuse Ahmed al-Raisi of being responsible for torture and say he should never become Interpol’s president.
Matthew Hedges, a British postgraduate student, claimed he was fed a cocktail of drugs during his imprisonment in Dubai on spying charges in 2018.
He spent nearly seven months in a detention centre – mostly in solitary confinement – in the UAE after being arrested during a research trip on suspicion of being a spy for a British intelligence agency.
As inspector general in the Ministry of the Interior, al-Raisi is in charge of organising and managing the security and police forces in the UAE, and “was ultimately responsible for my torture and detention”, Hedges said.
According to British media reports, Hedges was sentenced to life in prison after a five-minute hearing, despite the UK government publicly denying he was an agent. He was given a pardon later that year.
He claimed his calls were monitored and he was given a combination of drugs to combat his panic attacks and depression – from which he is still recovering.
The student said, due to the treatment, he confessed despite not being a spy.
“The next president of Interpol should know all about the principle of command responsibility and respect the rule of law,” Hedges told the Telegraph.
“It is therefore extremely concerning that the man who was ultimately responsible for my torture and detention is to even be considered for the position of Interpol president.”
His fears were echoed by Ali Ahmad, a British football fan who was imprisoned for wearing a Qatar football shirt to a match.
Ahmad told the Telegraph he was stabbed with a pocket knife in his chest and arms, struck in the face causing him to lose a tooth, suffocated with a plastic bag and had his clothing set on fire by arresting officers.
“I cannot believe that I need to ask an International police group like Interpol not to elect the person [ultimately] responsible for my torture to become their president,” Ahmad said.
“What I suffered in the UAE was very traumatising and it will scar me for life.”
The current Interpol president is South Korea’s Kim Jong Yang, who stepped in after the 2018 resignation of China’s Meng Hongwei, who was also his country’s vice minister of public security. Meng’s term came to an abrupt end after he disappeared while visiting his homeland, and Chinese authorities accused him of corruption. In January, he was sentenced to 13 and a half years in prison.