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'I was punched, hit and tasered' in Dubai jail: Ex-Leeds United chief

'People attempted to sexually abuse me. I now have a problem with my eyes, you are constantly kept in the dark'
Warm up before a match between Leeds United and Manchester United in 2011 (AFP)

A former managing director of Leeds United Football Club said that he was repeatedly tortured and abused by authorities in Dubai during his almost two-year stint in prison. 

David Haigh told local Leeds daily the Yorkshire Evening Post on Thursday that he was subjected to five “serious episodes” of physical abuse while in prison.

He was arrested in Dubai in May 2014 on suspicion of committing fraud, based on allegations brought by the Dubai-based private equity group GFH Capital. 

Haigh denies the charges of faking invoices and illegally channelling money to bank accounts under his control, saying that he was set up by GFH Capital, his former employer, who bought Leeds United in 2012.

He alleges that the company targeted him, in part, because he was a homosexual. 

Haigh was released in late March but now claims that, in addition to his own ordeal, he also witnessed other inmates being tortured. Dubai authorities have not yet commented on the allegations. 

Haigh said the experience was “horrific” adding that the claimed abuse began shortly after his arrest.

“I was punched around, I was hit, I was tasered,” he said. “People attempted to sexually abuse me. I now have a problem with my eyes; you are constantly kept in the dark … it damages your eyes.”

Haigh said that at the Bur Dubai police centre he was “surrounded by depravity”. 

“It was a mixture of everything you don’t want to smell in your life,” he said. “I will never forget. I was sitting there and the police are torturing a guy behind me. I don’t know what he had done, but they had thrown him on the floor, tasering him, kicking him in the head, three or four of them, getting a catapult, putting it on his testicles.”

Haigh also spoke to the BBC’s Newsnight and elaborated on his allegations of mistreatment in Dubai.

“They were trying to scare me, telling me that I needed to confess, that if I confessed everything would be fine, that I could leave, they would give me bail – but if I didn’t, I was looking at 10 years.”

Haigh said Britain’s embassy in the UAE provided him “wholly inadequate” support.

“There are a hundred or more British people that have had their human rights abused, that have not had fair trials, that have been detained arbitrarily … It’s shocking.”

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “Our embassy staff were in almost daily contact with Mr Haigh throughout his detention, and this included regular checks on his welfare. We also regularly raised his case with UAE authorities, letting them know we were following it closely.

“We take Mr Haigh’s allegations of mistreatment extremely seriously and are setting out our concerns to the UAE authorities. We only raise allegations of mistreatment when we have the individual’s consent to do so.”

Haigh said that after recovering he will seek to win justice for his treatment in Dubai.

“I am here this week speaking to lawyers and then I will be getting medical treatment for my eyes and the stress and all sorts of horrible things that have happened to me. After that my legal fightback needs to begin.”

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