UAE authorities have released Turkish businessman Mehmet Ali Öztürk after more than 3 years in prison. This is a new sign of improving relations between Ankara and Abu Dhabi.
Öztürk's release comes just days after Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed ended his visit to the Turkish capital, which was seen as the beginning of a new phase in relations between the two countries after a political estrangement that lasted more than eight years.
Öztürk's release confirms the findings of a study published by the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC) on August 23, titled: "Your nationality determines your fate in UAE prisons", which concluded that the nationality of the detainee plays the main role in determining the length of his stay in prison, not the sentences handed down by the UAE judiciary, not even the length of the sentence or the type of crime the detainee is charged with.
The study confirms that the countries' political influence and pressure on Abu Dhabi is the most important factor in the release of detainees. Although the UAE authorities refuse to release Öztürk due to the tense political atmosphere between the two countries, it was expected that him would be released if relations between the two countries can be improved, which has happened.
On February 20, 2018, Emirati authorities arrested Öztürk in Dubai while he was attending the "GulFood" exhibition and charged him with "financing terrorism" on suspicion of supplying funds to armed groups operating in Syria. Later, the Emirati judiciary sentenced Öztürk to life in prison.
His lawyers denied the charges against the Turkish businessman and stated that he was physically abused by the UAE authorities, including severe torture by dipping him in cold water during interrogation, placing an iron chain on his back and holding him for 3 days without letting him sleep, In addition to beating him and spraying him with cold water when he was sleeping, a towel was placed over his head to suffocate him by pouring water into his mouth . They stated that he was held for a long time in a small cell in difficult conditions, which caused him to lose 25 kilogrammes in weight.