Now he can be arrested

France opens investigation against Emarati head of Interpol for torture

12 May 2022
France opens investigation against Emarati head of Interpol for torture

Agence France-Presse reported that French authorities have opened a judicial investigation against the Emarati head of Interpol, Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi, for torture and arbitrary detention, after two Britons previously arrested in the UAE filed charges.

The agency quoted a source, who requested anonymity, as saying that the French counterterrorism prosecutor's office had referred the case related to the involvement of a senior Emirati official in torture to an investigating judge, who would decide whether to file charges against Raisi.

The source added that the investigating judge must also decide whether Al-Raisi, who was elected president of Interpol (International Criminal Police Organisation) in November, enjoys diplomatic immunity that protects him from any prosecution in France.

According to the agency, the investigation is now in the hands of a judicial investigator, a step that precedes formal indictment, which means it is possible to arrest Raissi for questioning in France if he goes there, as Interpol's headquarters are in the French city of Lyon (southeast).

Notably, Britons Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmed filed a complaint against the UAE's Interpol chief last March, accusing him of being responsible for torture and arbitrary detention they say they were subjected to in the UAE, when he was a senior security official in the country's Interior Ministry.

The British filed the complaint based on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows a country to prosecute the perpetrators of serious crimes even if they were committed outside its territory.

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According to the agency, the two complainants testified before the investigating judge in Paris on Wednesday. Hedges says he was arrested and tortured in the UAE from May to November 2018 after being arrested on false charges of espionage while visiting the Gulf state as part of his studies.

Ahmed, in turn, says he was repeatedly beaten and even stabbed during his month-long detention in January 2019 on suspicion of cheering for the Qatar team during a match at the Asian Cup.

In a statement, Hedges said the moment he handed over evidence to the French judge about the torture he says he was subjected to was a "truly proud moment," adding, "Given the human rights situation in the UAE, it was unbelievable that even Al Raisi was elected president. Unfortunately, the torture that I, Ali and countless other people in the Emirates have experienced is the norm in the Gulf state."

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Ahmed said, "I have often lost hope (because I believe) that Al-Raisi and others who did this to me will escape accountability by enjoying total impunity, but today is a good day."

Al-Raisi's tenure at the helm of Interpol, which lasts four years, is largely voluntary, with the organisation's secretary-general, Juergen Stock, directing and managing the organisation's day-to-day operations.

His candidacy for office sparked condemnations from activists who pointed to the generous funding the organization receives from the Emirates.