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Inside Dubai: British families of detainees say BBC has made 'propaganda video’

Television series 'Inside Dubai' glorifies life in repressive emirate, say the families of two men imprisoned there
The Dubai skyline at dusk (AFP)

The families of two British men detained in the United Arab Emirates have condemned the BBC over its three-part series Inside Dubai, which they say is a "propaganda video" that "glorifies" life in the emirate. 

Breda Guckion, the mother of Billy Hood, a young British football coach imprisoned in Dubai for 10 years after police found four bottles of vape liquid containing cannabis oil in his car, called the programmes "absurd".

"How can a series promote the country to British citizens in the midst of what is going on with Billy?" she asked. "He has been begging to be seen by a doctor but nobody is helping him. Then I switch on the TV and see this series glorifying Dubai."

Guckion pointed out that while in the BBC series viewers are told that if you follow the rules in Dubai, you will be fine, her son had been thrown in prison simply for possessing CBD oil - which he says was left in the car by a friend of his from the UK. 

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"They keep saying, ‘If you follow the rules, you will be ok’, but we know full well that this is the lie that Dubai has perpetuated for years. It’s why Billy went there, because of these same lies," Guckion said.

Hood, 25, was originally sentenced to 25 years in prison after the CBD oil was found in his car. His sentence was reduced to 10 years at the beginning of December. 

Wolfgang Douglas is the son of Albert Douglas, a wealthy British grandfather currently imprisoned in Dubai over a bounced cheque that, according to forensic evidence, he did not write. He described Inside Dubai as a "propaganda video". 

"My father loved Dubai, that is, until he was falsely arrested, beaten and tortured by prison guards and convicted of writing a cheque he never wrote," Wolfgang Douglas said.

Albert Douglas has described witnessing suicides and rape in prison in Dubai, as well as being tortured and intimidated into making a "propaganda video" - pressure he says he resisted. 

"He has had to undergo surgery for his broken bones, caused by prison guards. He has multiple surgeries still to go and we are desperate for him to return to the UK so he can be cared for locally. It’s outrageous that [Dubai ruler] Sheikh Mohammed was asking my father to make a fake propaganda video saying, ‘Dubai prison is good’, but that is exactly what Inside Dubai is, a propaganda video.”

Albert Douglas was handed a £2.5m fine after Wolfgang's company, which he had no role in, failed in 2019. The father lost an appeal and tried to flee the prison with the help of people smugglers, but was caught at the border and given a three-year sentence.

In March 2020, a British judge ruled that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the emir of Dubai, was keeping his daughters Latifa and Shamsa captive, and that he was guilty of conducting a campaign of harassment against his now former wife, Jordan’s Princess Haya.

In December 2021, Sheikh Mohammed was ordered by an English court to pay his ex-wife and their two children up to half a billion pounds as part of a divorce settlement.

The statements condemning the BBC were provided to the campaign group Detained in Dubai, which was set up in 2008 by rights advocate and UAE legal expert Radha Stirling.

Inside Dubai is now playing on the BBC's iPlayer streaming service, where it is promoted as follows: "Drenched in sun, luxury and excess, what is it really like to live in the desert paradise of Dubai, an ultra-modern tax haven for the super-rich?"

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