Former British soldier Andrew Neal ‘accused of selling drugs in Dubai’ | UK News
A former British soldier recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder is being detained in the United Arab Emirates, a group representing his case has revealed.
Andrew Neal, 44, a married father-of-two who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia, has been held in Dubai for more than four months after being accused of selling drugs, a charge he denies, according to the legal advocacy group.
The head of Detained in Dubai, which is representing the Neal family, claimed today that the person who accused Mr Neal of selling drugs had retracted his statement.
But still the Briton – a military dog trainer and handler during his time in the army – remains behind bars.
Radha Stirling appealed to the foreign secretary and Mark Spencer, the Conservative MP for Sherwood, for help.
She said: “We are calling on the support of Jeremy Hunt and Mark Spencer to stand up for Andy Neal, a man who has dedicated much of his life to supporting the British forces abroad.”
She also urged the government of Dubai to “respond to this injustice swiftly”.
In a statement to Sky News, Ms Stirling added: “It is shameful that law enforcement has a rubber stamp to ruin people’s lives, rob children of their parents, and jail innocent persons with impunity.
“How is it that forced confessions are still standard procedure in the UAE?”
It was not immediately possible to obtain a response from the Dubai authorities about the claims.
Mr Neal, who was born in Nottingham and spent 24 years in the army from 1991, is the latest person to fall foul of the law in the Gulf state.
A British-Sudanese football fan is in detention reportedly for wearing a Qatar shirt to a football match – deemed an offence in the country.
The UAE has denied this was the reason for the arrest of Ali Issa Ahmad, accusing the 26-year-old of making false statements and wasting police time.
British academic Matthew Hedges was held in solitary confinement and charged with being an MI6 officer last year after what he says was a forced confession.
Mr Neal, who moved to Dubai in 2015 with his family to run a dog training business, was taken away by Dubai police at his apartment on 4 October in front of his wife and nanny, according to the statement from Detained in Dubai.
The advocacy group was given details of Mr Neal’s case from his wife and parents.
It accused the police of confronting him in a basement car park and showing him what they said was a warrant in an Arabic WhatsApp message.
Detained in Dubai said in a statement: “They searched Andy, searched his car twice and then made their way up to his apartment where Andy’s wife and sleeping children were.”
The police are alleged to have searched a couple of drawers and wardrobes in a bedroom.
Officers allegedly punched Mr Neal twice in the stomach, pinned him against the wall by his neck and then sat him in a chair in the middle of the bedroom, according to the statement.
They allegedly accused him of handling drugs, which he denied.
Officers then took Mr Neal to the apartment of a Dutch international called Ray whom they arrested along with a woman, the Detained in Dubai statement said.
Mr Neal’s phone and the phones of the other two individuals were confiscated and they were taken to a police headquarters, where it is claimed Mr Neal spent 17 hours “painfully handcuffed with no food, water or access to the bathroom”.
The former soldier was allegedly told that someone had identified him as having sold drugs to them, but Mr Neal said he was innocent, the advocacy group said.
The group claimed: “The police drew up a statement in Arabic and forced Andy to sign it by way of his fingerprint, and when Andy complained that he had no idea what was written, the interrogator said ‘exactly what you said’.”
It said Mr Neal and his wife subsequently found out “the document was a confession that he purchased drugs from Ray and sold them to Ahmed, a Pakistani/Canadian man who they told Andy had accused him of selling drugs,” Detained in Dubai said.
The former soldier was taken to the al-Barsha police station.
His wife, a teacher, whose full name has not been disclosed, was only allowed to visit Mr Neal on a Wednesday.
The couple have a six-year-old daughter and a son, aged two.
Detained in Dubai claimed that subsequent hearings with the prosecution were confused and a number of hearings cancelled.
It is claimed a meeting was arranged with his alleged accuser on 23 January in which Ahmed is claimed to have denied he pointed the finger at Mr Neal.
Ahmed’s “‘statement’ was then officially retracted”, Detained in Dubai said.
“No drugs were found in Andy’s possession and all tests had returned negative,” it said.
Analysis of the seized phones allegedly found no communications between Mr Neal and Ray.
Detained in Dubai said: “The new evidence exonerated Andy and he was told the prosecutor would finalise the decision as to whether to release him or transfer his case to Abu Dhabi before the end of January.”
However, they said he remains in detention.
Asked about the case, a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said: “We are providing assistance to a British man after his arrest in Dubai and are in touch with his family and the UAE authorities.”