A Canadian imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates for nearly two years has been acquitted of all charges by the country’s Supreme Court, his family said Monday as they appealed to Ottawa to help bring the man home.
Salim Alaradi had been accused of allegedly providing supplies to groups in a foreign country without permission of the U.A.E. government and collecting donations without the government’s permission.
But despite the acquittal, Alaradi remains in custody, his daughter said.
“Our family is overwhelmed after almost two years of fighting for my father’s freedom, but today I cannot say that he is free man because he is still behind bars even though he is innocent,” Marwa Alaradi told The Canadian Press.
“I am afraid for his safety and his health. Canada needs to get him out today.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion welcomed Alaradi’s acquittal and said he expects an “expedited process” to reunite the man with his family.
“The government of Canada raised Mr. Alaradi’s case at the highest levels and called for his release and return to Canada,” Dion said in a statement.
“Canadian officials will continue to provide consular assistance to Mr. Alaradi and his family, including by helping to facilitate his return home.”
Salim Alaradi immigrated to Canada in 1998 from the U.A.E. but returned there in 2007 to run a home appliance business. He was on vacation with his family in Dubai when he was suddenly arrested in August 2014.
At the time, he was among 10 men of Libyan origin who were abruptly detained – some of them were later released.
After being held for months without being charged, Alaradi was put on trial early this year on terrorism charges, which he pleaded not guilty to. Those charges were abruptly dropped in March and replaced with two lesser offences.
Alaradi’s Canadian lawyer said a U.A.E. Supreme Court judge delivered the “not guilty” verdict for his client and three co-accused without giving any reasons for the decision.
“The men cheered and hugged each other but before they could speak with their lawyers, the guards came and took them away to transport them back to jail,” said Paul Champ.
“We are still concerned that the State Security may try to assert their power over this situation. But Canadian government officials have already reached out to their Emirate counterparts and are insisting on Salim Alaradi’s immediate release.”
Once Alaradi is released – hopefully early this week – Champ said Canadian officials are expected to accompany him to the airport where he will board a plane to Istanbul to seek immediate medical treatment and reunite with his family.
Once he is healthy enough, Alaradi and his family plan to return to their home in Windsor, Ont., Champ said.
“This is great victory for us, the acquittal, but really it’s just the first step on his long road to recovery and getting his life back,” he said.
“Aside from 21 months in jail, which obviously would be hard on anyone, the injustice of being held on false charges on trumped up charges and the brutal torture he endured the first three months of detention, all of that is going to have a real toll on him.”
The case has drawn international attention ever since Alaradi and his co-accused were put on trial.
UN human rights experts demanded the U.A.E. immediately release the men.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also examined the men’s cases and cited advocates for the detainees alleging that the men had been deprived of sleep for up to 20 days, beaten on the hands and legs and suffered “electric shocks with an electric chair.”