A frail 72 year old retired great grandfather is a “pack of bones” after being ripped from a flight home to Australia to be reunited with his family after a year of being stranded in Africa during covid. The father of two, who is suffering from dementia, was desperate to get home to his family after so long away. The Australian government helped him get a flight but during a transit stop in Dubai, he was pulled from his plane and taken into custody. He has been in prison ever since that fateful day, May the 19th. Worse than that, cellmates check his breath every morning, certain “he won’t last”.
William Norman Meyerhoff, a locksmith from Grimsby Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire had no idea why he was taken into custody but assumed it must be some mistake. He worked in Dubai over a decade ago but never had any issues there. When authorities told him there were 38 criminal cases against him, he sank. “5 years and 3 months prison for you, AED 98,000 fine or if you can’t pay, extra 6 months in prison,” he was told. He was taken away in handcuffs to Dubai Central Prison where he was placed in a cell. “William is largely deaf and can not understand most of what is said to him, he finds it very hard to communicate”, said his distressed son Matthew who is now living in Perth.
“It seems that somehow, the Indian owners of Crystal Palace, put my dad down on the paperwork as a Director of the company but it was not his company and he wasn’t responsible for running it and he had no idea of the intricacies of the operation and didn’t even have access to the bank accounts. Now, he’s been convicted in absentia and sentenced to essentially a life in prison? He has been used as a scapegoat by those who actually owned the company and were responsible for it,” added Matthew.
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai and Due Process International commented, “This is how dangerous Dubai is to foreigners. They can be placed as Directors of companies as sort of ‘white knights’, they can be held responsible for fraud, embezzlement and deliberately bounced cheques. We’ve seen it time and time again over the past 13+ years, André Gauthier, Albert Douglas, Safi Qurashi, the list goes on”. In William’s case, he confirmed he has now been made aware that the owners continued to distribute cheques in his name unbeknownst to him, even after he had left the company. “If they check the signature and forensics, they will see that”, he told authorities.
Since William’s arrest, he’s been hospitalised several times with head injuries. “He’s been disoriented and is difficult to communicate with. One thing’s for certain though”, said Stirling, “he has maintained his innocence and is utterly confused by the allegations against him. Had he committed any kind of crime, he would never have agreed to transit via Dubai. This is why we encourage people who have lived there before, to check their police case status before going anywhere near the country. You never know what frivolous case has been opened”. Albert Douglas, a fellow British grandfather, is sharing a cell with William. He has described him as being on death’s door. “We don’t think he will make it, we check his breath every morning to make sure he hasn’t passed. He’s skin and bones, confused and I have volunteered to help him with his dignity. He can’t go to the bathroom without help”, relayed Mr Douglas who himself is in prison over bounced cheques he did not write, forensics confirmed. “I was beaten and tortured by guards and am still healing from the broken bones, still awaiting more operations and I shouldn’t be in here in the first place”, he added.
William is extremely unwell and medical assistance has not been forthcoming. Instead, every month he is taken to a court where the judge asks him “Do you have the money to pay these cheques and fines in full?” Williams replies, “no”, and he is told “ok, we ask you again next month” and he’s returned to his filthy cell once more.
William’s two children, Matthew, 44 and Samera, 41 are devastated. “We have been unable to speak with dad. He’s had no assistance from police, from the prison or the hospital. His treatment to date has been horrific. It is like they are trying to kill him. They can see he is extremely frail and ill and they are depriving him of his final journey with us. We would do anything to see him again and we beg Sheikh Mohammed to have some compassion for our father. He did not commit any crime and these cases are more than a decade old. Even if he tried to resolve them through the courts, he would surely be dead first. We can not afford the extortionate fees being charged by the lawyers there. If my father is not released on humanitarian grounds, we know we will not see him again and this is too much for us to handle and too much for his grandchildren. We can not bear the thought of him dying all alone in a foreign prison. Please help him”, Matthew appealed. In other cases, Dubai’s ruler, HH Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, has directly reviewed and intervened in cases of injustice.
The UAE has increased lobbying and investment efforts abroad, particularly with the United Kingdom where they pledged another £10 billion to the private sector. In the United States, there have been similar controversies in respect of illegal lobbying efforts which have in turn, negatively impacted the rights of American citizens. Stirling continued, “The British Foreign Office has increasingly shown their priorities lean more towards close relations with the Emiratis with little effort being made to protect British citizens facing human rights violations abroad”, Stirling confirmed. “A new inquest has been ordered into the death of Lee Bradley Brown, a British citizen who was killed in custody as a result of police brutality. The European Parliament has just voted to boycott Dubai’s Expo due to human rights concerns and there is escalating pressure for the UK to follow suit. Baroness Whitaker and Andy Slaughter, MP recently called for sanctions and increased travel warnings against the UAE, following the horrendous treatment of Albert Douglas. Things are changing but most importantly, foreigners need to be aware that the Dubai Expo is just marketing. Dubai is one of the most dangerous places for foreigners to invest their money, for businesses, expats and tourists.
“A ticket to Dubai can end up being a one way expedition to hell, and behind the touristic activities lies a medieval justice system that has time and time again seen innocent expats and visitors lose their lives, their livelihoods, their freedom and their money”.
Detained in Dubai calls on the government of Dubai to release these two grandfathers. “We need to see some humanitarian action behind the marketing endeavours if Dubai is going to prosper as an investment centre”.