Skip to main content

The UAE must free my brother, Salim Alaradi

As a Libyan-born Canadian citizen, my brother is a victim and a pawn in the UAE’s regional political games, and innocent of all charges

I am the brother of someone who has suffered torture at the hands of UAE’s state security apparatus - someone who has spent over 500 days as an innocent man in a dank jail cell.

My brother’s name is Salim Alaradi and he is a political prisoner of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country with a notorious system of secret prisons, which the country’s security services use to disappear anyone they please. My brother is not an activist or a politician and he has broken no laws. He is a 46-year-old businessman, a father of five children, and a victim of the worst acts of a tyrannical system of injustice.

Our counsel recently gained access to the prosecution file of the Emirati government’s lawyers. What they discovered is a case built entirely on torture-induced “confessions,” buttressed by “witnesses statements” from anonymous sources. The whole thing is a sham.

My brother is a Canadian citizen born in Libya. He gave generously to our country of birth when it was thrown into a humanitarian crisis during the Arab Spring. He helped with medical aid, and he re-built schools and hospitals. The whole world, including the UAE, delivered relief to Libya after a popular revolution devolved into a civil war.

Instead of being rewarded for his philanthropic efforts, Salim is now a victim of the UAE’s regional politics, particularly vis a vis Libya.

Emirati officials are accusing my brother of aiding a now-defunct militia called the February 17 Brigade, which popped up in Libya in 2011 when an armed insurrection displaced long-time despot Muammar Gaddafi. The UAE insists that this obscure group was a major terrorist organisation, even though it never made the US, Canadian, or UN terror lists. And instead of backing up their accusations against my brother with real evidence or any semblance of due process, the UAE’s security service disappeared Salim into their secret prisons in 2014 while he was on a family vacation. He was just one of 10 Libyan businessmen who were disappeared the same way during a short time span.

No one was allowed to communicate with him and the suddenness of his arrest and detention gave the impression that my brother was involved in something truly criminal. Nothing could be further from the truth. After 500 days of unjust detainment, it’s never been more certain that Salim’s detention is baseless and an affront to basic standards of justice.

My brother is a victim and hostage of regional, post-Arab Spring politics. The UAE’s notorious security services are trying to fabricate connections to so-called “terrorist groups,” as a way of justifying their practice of arbitrarily disappearing and detaining people. They invoke their anti-terror legislation as a way to mask the arbitrariness and invalidity of their methods.

Torture confessions

Canadian officials were eventually allowed to visit Salim earlier this year and can confirm that my brother suffered extensive torture. His torturers even blindfolded him before making him sign fake confessions as they threatened him with more torment. The entire case against him rests on these bogus “admissions," further confirming that my brother is innocent of all charges and a pawn in the UAE’s political games.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have already admonished the Emirates for their arrest and treatment of Salim, but he remains imprisoned to this day.

The UAE is a country that cares a lot about its international reputation. They fear that releasing Salim will expose them to further global scrutiny and criticism, so they keep holding him, hoping that the passage of time will free them from this awkward political situation. They hope that the world will simply forget about what they did and continue to do.

Yet Salim’s family, especially his children, have campaigned tirelessly on his behalf by publicising his plight as a way of demanding his basic human rights. They have made great progress.

The UAE’s security service is doing its country no favours by further detaining Salim. His continued prosecution will do nothing but corrode the Emirati courts’ reputation. My brother should be dismissed of all charges. The way he has been treated - and continues to be treated - combined with the unjust ways the UAE has built its case against him, amounts to a mockery and affront to all credible standards of international justice. A first-year law school student can see this.

It is high time that the highest levels of the UAE government intervene on Salim’s behalf. They must ensure that security agencies operate within the parameters of the Emirati constitution by holding those who break the rules to account. This means going after rule-breakers who operate under their noses in the name of “justice”. It means letting my brother Salim and the other innocent Libyan businessmen go back to their families. 

- Abdulrazag Elaradi is businessman, writer, and former member of the National Transitional Council of Libya.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye. 

Photo: Salim Aradi and his family on holiday before his enforced disappearance in the UAE (Photo courtesy of Marwa Aradi)