A Canadian detained for nearly two years in the United Arab Emirates has safely made it out of the country, in what his family called “the best news ever”, after a tense few days that saw him acquitted of all charges and sent into hiding over fears of being arrested again.
The family of Canadian Libyan Salim Alaradi posted a video of the businessmansitting on a flight leaving Dubai on Thursday. “I’ve boarded the plane and it will take off soon,” a weary-looking Alaradi told the camera. “I am not home yet, but I am a plane ride away.”
Alaradi was among 10 men, including Kamal and Mohamed Eldarat, a Libyan American father and son, arrested by state security officials in the UAE in August 2014.
Before being charged with terrorism-related offences, the men were held in prison for 505 days without charges. Family members allege they were subjected to torture, suffering beatings, electric shocks and sleep deprivation.
Earlier this week, a judge in the UAE declared the three dual nationals, as well as Libyan Issa al Manna, not guilty on downgraded charges of providing supplies to groups in a foreign country and collecting donations without permission.
The celebration was short-lived, however, as the men were whisked away by guards and returned to custody.
What followed were several exhausting days and nights as Canadian officials and his lawyers pushed for Alaradi to be released and allowed to leave the country, said lawyer Paul Champ: “We were biting our nails right until the last second.”
Mohamed Eldarat was released on Tuesday and Kamal on Thursday, Champ said. Both Americans remain in the country.
Alaradi was released from jail late on Tuesday evening. Canadian officials accompanied him soon after to the airport, only to find out he was subject to a travel ban.
As Canadian officials worked frantically to have the ban lifted, it was feared he would be arrested again by state security officials as his visa had expired while he was in prison. “We were keeping him in a secret location until we could negotiate confirmation that he would be able leave the country,” Champ said. “It’s been quite emotionally exhausting for him.”
Alaradi is now en route to Istanbul, where he will receive immediate medical attention and be reunited with his family. Champ said he was suffering from multiple health issues, ranging from kidney stones to a pinched nerve in his back and ringing in one of his ears. “He’s very gaunt – I’m estimating he’s lost 40 to 50 pounds.”
Once doctors in Turkey confirm he is healthy enough to withstand the journey to Canada, Alaradi will return to his home in southern Ontario. “This is just the first step in his recovery, it’s going to be a long road for him,” said Champ.
On Thursday, his 18-year-old daughter Marwa, speaking to the Guardian from Doha and on her way to Istanbul, was breathless with excitement. “I’m on top of the world right now,” she said. “I just feel amazing.”
She had spoken to her father several times this week, hearing his voice for the first time in more than a year. “I’m very happy this day came. I’ve been fighting for it for almost two years,” she said, her voice shaking with emotion.
The nearly two-year ordeal attracted widespread criticism from groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Drewery Dyke, a researcher for Amnesty International, told the Guardian in an earlier interview the trial had been “strewn with a catalogue of flaws and shocking human rights violations”, including imprisonment for a year without charge or access to counsel.
In February, a report by the UN working group on arbitrary detention called for the immediate release of the four men, documenting the men’s claims that they were subjected to electric shocks, whipped, had guns held to their heads, had been placed in a freezer for up to 45 minutes and “hung with a rope around the neck”. The UAE has denied all allegations of torture.