British student has been freed from jail in the United Arab Emirates after a three-year campaign for his release.
Ahmad Zeidan was imprisoned in 2014 after 0.04g of cocaine was found in a car in which he was a passenger. He always claimed he was innocent.
His father Manal said his son was freed after a £4,000 fine was paid and added: “We are overjoyed… he is finally free and still can’t believe it’s real.”
The Foreign Office said it “assisted” during Zeidan’s detention and release.
Mr Zeidan said his son has now left UAE and “wants to restart his education” after “recovering from his ordeal”.
Zeidan, now 23 and formerly from Reading, was studying at Emirates Aviation College when he was arrested.He claims he was tortured into admitting drugs charges. All the local men in the car were given pardons, but Zeidan was jailed in a Sharjah prison.
His family enlisted the help of human rights charity Reprieve and appealed to the Foreign Office to intervene, which led to a bilateral meeting between the British and UAE governments in March 2016.
When these came to nothing the student went on a three-day hunger strike, and unsuccessfully appealed for a royal pardon.
But following a high court appeal and a change in UAE drug laws, his sentence was reduced to seven years on 4 October.
His father told the BBC the family then hired another lawyer who successfully appealed for a further sentence reduction to five years, “most of which [Ahmad] had already served in detention”.
He added: “He could be released if a fine of approximately £4000 was paid. This was raised and he was freed immediately.”
Mr Zeidan said media coverage of his son’s case was “the only ray of light that kept both his story and motivation alive while he was being held prisoner for years”.
“[Ahmad] is still fragile and needs rest and recuperation to overcome past seizures he suffered while in captivity,” he said.
“Nothing can compensate for the material and emotional loss that he has endured.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Our staff assisted a British man and his family during his detention and subsequent release in the UAE.”
“Ahmad Zeidan: British Student Released from UAE Prison.” BBC News, BBC, 16 Nov. 2017, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-42008678.