UAE police chief accused of presiding over torture of British academic running to be head of Interpol
The Telegraph has seen campaign material for Major General Nasser Ahmed Al-Raisi, who is thought to be one of the frontrunners for the job
A United Arab Emirates security chief accused of presiding over the “torture” a British academic is running to become the new head of Interpol, leaked documents reveal.
Major General Nasser Ahmed Al-Raisi has been accused of serious human rights violations in the Middle East, including against British citizens, and Interpol has been warned it could lose credibility if he is elected President.
Campaign material seen by the Telegraph shows the smiling Major General and his long list of professional achievements, honorary titles and academic qualifications, including a diploma in “Police Management” from Cambridge.
But a British postgraduate who claims he was fed a cocktail of drugs during his imprisonment in Dubai on spying charges, and a football fan who claims he was beaten up, stabbed and electrocuted, accused him of being responsible for torture and say he should never become president.
Matthew Hedges, a Durham University PHD student (pictured below), was held for almost six months in solitary confinement after being arrested at Dubai airport in May 2018 on suspicion of spying for MI6.
He claims he had his calls monitored, was made to sign a false confession, and was given a combination of high strength drugs to combat his panic attacks and depression – from which he is still recovering.
Mr Hedges was sentenced to life in prison after a five-minute hearing, despite British authorities publicly denying he was an agent, but was handed a presidential pardon later on in the year after international pressure.
As Inspector General in the Ministry of the Interior, Major General Al-Raisi is in charge of organising and managing the security and police forces in the UAE, and “was ultimately responsible for my torture and detention” according to Mr Hedges.
His fear of the Major General landing one of the most important roles in global security is echoed by Ali Ahmad, a British football fan who was imprisoned for wearing a Qatar shirt to a match.
Mr Ahmad claims he was stabbed with a pocket knife in his chest and arms, struck in the mouth causing him to lose a front tooth, suffocated with a plastic bag and had his clothing set on fire by arresting officers.
A medical report was allegedly falsified, he says, to say that the injuries he sustained were self inflicted.
Mr Ahmad spent more than two weeks in prison and says he was electrocuted, denied food and drink, made to sign a confession, and not allowed access to a lawyer.
“I cannot believe that I need to ask an International police group like Interpol not to elect the person [ultimately] responsible for my torture to become their President,” Mr Ahmad told the Telegraph.
“What I suffered in the UAE was very traumatising and it will scar me for life.”
Mr Hedges added: “The next President of Interpol should know all about the principle of command responsibility and respect the rule of law.
“It is therefore extremely concerning that the man who was ultimately responsible for my torture and detention is to even be considered for the position of Interpol President.
“The UAE police force, under Al-Raissi’s command acted with total impunity both in mine, Ali’s and the cases of many others, and we cannot allow Interpol to be led by him.”
Both men have written to Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock to voice their concerns.
But there have also been questions raised about the UAE’s influence on Interpol, amid speculation that the Major General is a shoo-in for the role.
In 2017, the country announced a contribution of 50 million euros to support seven Interpol projects designed to combat global crime and terrorism.
Secretary General Stock, who is pictured with Al-Raissi in his campaign material said: “The generosity of the UAE’s contribution will have a significant impact on strengthening the work of law enforcement worldwide.”
In December, the organisation’s General Assembly, where the new president will be announced, will be held in the UAE, after the venue was changed from Uruguay.
Major General Al-Raissi already sits on Interpol’s executive committee, but has never before run to be president.
Ben Keith, a barrister at 5 St Andrew’s Hill, who specialises in international crime said that the UAE had “effectively tried to buy its way into Interpol.”
Speaking to the Telegraph, he said: “This is another attempt by a despotic country to get their person elected as the president of Interpol.
“The money is there, the power base is there, they are hosting the assembly. They have effectively tried to buy their way into Interpol. This is the best chance they have and their candidate is clearly the front runner.”
In a statement, Interpol said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on the allegations” of torture.
They added: “Elections for Executive Committee positions including for the President, are held during the INTERPOL General Assembly, which this year is scheduled to take place on 7 and 8 December.
Candidacies for the Executive Committee, including the President, can only officially be presented and accepted once the General Assembly has opened. Any member country can propose a candidate up until the elections take place.
“As with all decisions at the General Assembly, it is a one country one vote system with each vote carrying equal weight. The President is elected through a two-thirds majority.”
Major General Al-Raisi was also contacted for comment but did not respond.