TORONTO — Terrorism charges against a Canadian imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates for more than a year have been dropped, marking what his family called a major development in the man’s case.
But Salim Alaradi’s legal battle is far from over, as a state prosecutor announced at a court hearing Monday that the Libyan-born man had been charged instead with two lesser offences.
“What happened today is clear evidence that my father is innocent,” Alaradi’s 18-year-old daughter Marwa told The Canadian Press. “The closer we get to his innocence the more the U.A.E. State Security plays games with his freedom.”
Alaradi, who immigrated to Canada in 1998 from the U.A.E. but returned there in 2007 to run a home appliance business, was on vacation with his family in Dubai when he was arrested in August 2014.
He was among 10 men of Libyan origin detained around the same time — some of them have since been released.
When his trial got underway in January, the 48-year-old pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges which related to funding, supporting and co-operating with terrorist organizations.
His Canadian lawyer said the dropping of the terror-related charges was a significant development.
Most serious outcomes ‘off the table’
“It was a real dramatic turn,” said Paul Champ. “It seems that state security is trying to salvage this situation and save face when they know they really don’t have anything against these men.”
The lesser charges Alaradi now faces allege he provided supplies to groups in a foreign country without permission of the U.A.E. government and collected donations without permission of the U.A.E. government, Champ said.
“The most serious outcomes that we were most concerned about are off the table, whether it was life imprisonment or even the death penalty,” Champ explained. “We’re hoping that these might be viewed as relatively minor charges.”
Alaradi has always admitted he helped raise funds and secure supplies for the new transitional council in Libya after the ouster of longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Champ noted.
“That was fully supported by the U.A.E. government and all western governments at the time,” he said. “Since there has been increased unrest in Libya starting in 2012, Mr. Alaradi has nothing to do whatsoever with the political situation there.”
The U.A.E. was part of the NATO-led coalition that ousted Gadhafi and has taken a keen interest in the country’s future since.
Alaradi’s case has drawn growing international attention since he and his co-accused went on trial.
UN human rights experts last month demanded the U.A.E immediately release him and his fellow detainees.
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.”
The scrutiny seems to be having an impact, Champ said.
“I think the contrast between the human rights violations that are occurring against these men and the reputation that the U.A.E. likes to project to the world is really what’s on display here,” he said. “Hopefully we’re going to see a fair process the rest of the way here and Mr. Alaradi will be acquitted.”
Alaradi will be back in court on April 11.