ROTTING IN DUBAI: Household of American imprisoned in UAE says US deserted him for Brittney Griner

Zack Shahin has rotted — actually rotted — in a Dubai jail for 15 years.

The brilliant fluorescent lights are all the time on within the concrete cell the American citizen shares with 60 different prisoners. The noisy air conditioner runs 24 hours a day. The air is damp and chilly and smells like decaying flesh.

Zack sleeps on a plastic mattress with a unclean blanket and in garments which have by no means been washed. Prisoners are not often set free of their cells.

His household maintains his innocence.

However Zack — sick, sleep-deprived and ravenous — misplaced the desire to stay years in the past.



“He’s rotting,” Martin Lonergan, a British activist who met Zack in jail, informed Fox Information. “In the event you can think about a person is dying as a result of he is rotting … they’re slicing bits of Zack away, and he is dying attempting to combat the an infection.” 

Almost three months in the past, Zack’s situation grew to become so dire he was moved to a Dubai hospital, the place he had a number of unsuccessful surgical procedures. 

In a remaining try to get Zack house, his household submitted mercy letters to the State Division on Nov. 23. The Shahins went backwards and forwards with State Division officers for almost two weeks, revising their letters till they have been lastly despatched to the United Arab Emirates on Dec. 6. 

The Shahins did not comprehend it, however the U.S. was concurrently negotiating the discharge of WNBA star Brittney Griner, which the UAE helped facilitate.

“They fully deserted us . . . they fully pushed us to the aspect,” Ramy Shahin, Zack’s son, informed Fox Information. “Possibly we’re not newsworthy sufficient for them — we’re not well-known, we’re simply an bizarre household — they usually simply left us.” 

‘They simply took him down’

Zack, a Lebanese native who moved to Texas when he was 5, labored as a Pepsi truck driver in Houston. Finally, he labored his means as much as grow to be an government on the firm.

In 2004, Zack was recruited to the UAE by Mohammed Khalfan bin Kharbash, the nation’s minister of finance and chairman of the Dubai Islamic Financial institution. He was made CEO of an actual property growth agency that the financial institution owned, Deyaar. Over the subsequent 4 years, the $5 million non-public agency grew to become a $1.5 billion publicly traded firm, and the second-largest publicly traded actual property firm on the Dubai Inventory Change.

However when Dubai’s ruler died in 2006, the political fallout engulfed bin Kharbash and disrupted Zack’s success, in keeping with his household. He resigned from Deyaar in early March 2008.

On March 23, Zack, then 43, was referred to as into an auditing assembly. There, he was kidnapped by state safety, Zack’s household stated. After 17 days in solitary confinement, he was taken to the police station and arrested on fees of fraud, embezzlement and different monetary crimes — fees his household says are false and politically motivated.

Zack Shahin, 59, has been illegally detained in a Dubai jail for 15 years for crimes he didn’t commit, his household stated. 
(Courtesy of the Shahin household)


His household stated he was detained for 13 months earlier than formal fees have been filed towards him. Moreover a short-lived launch on bail, Zack spent the subsequent 9 years in jail earlier than he was lastly convicted in 2017. He was sentenced to 49 years, which did not embrace time served.

His household insists he’s harmless. The large 4 international accountancy corporations audited Deyaar for the years Zack was CEO and located no monetary losses or proof of the monetary crimes he was accused of, in keeping with the Shahins. 

“My dad’s simply an bizarre American man who began working laborious to make a reputation for himself,” Ramy informed Fox Information. “He took this little actual property firm and made it what it grew to become and constructed a lot of what Dubai is thought for. After which they simply took him down.” 

‘My dad has no hope’

Now 58, Zack is the longest-serving American white-collar prisoner abroad, in keeping with Detained Worldwide, a British group that gives professional bono authorized providers to prisoners.

A number of organizations, together with Human Rights Watch, Detained Worldwide and the James W. Foley Legacy Basis, have tried to boost consciousness of Zack’s imprisonment over time however have not gotten a response from the U.S. authorities.

“I will hold combating till he will get out,” Ramy stated. “And if I fail, then so be it. However I will by no means let this go.” 

Zack's mental and physical health have deteriorated greatly while in prison. His family said he won't survive much longer. 

Zack’s psychological and bodily well being have deteriorated vastly whereas in jail. His household stated he will not survive for much longer. 
(Courtesy of the Shahin household)

Zack suffers from a bunch of well being points, together with an an infection in his lungs and rotting flesh and pores and skin sores. The Shahins suspect his situation is worse than they know, since they’ve by no means seen his medical data.

Lonergan, the Brit who met Zack whereas jailed, in contrast the jail to a dungeon.

“It’s the place you’re pushed away to be forgotten about,” he stated.


Lonergan, who works for Detained Worldwide, spent 10 months imprisoned with Zack starting in 2020. He first observed the American via the bars of his personal cell from throughout the corridor. Regardless of the severity of Zack’s bodily illnesses, Lonergan stated his psychological well being is “far, far worse.”

“I did have conversations with Zack, and there is instances when you possibly can see a glimmer of sunshine in his eyes when he talks about his story,” Lonergan stated. “Most of what I’ve found is from analysis from after I obtained out.”

“I’ve by no means in my life witnessed such injustice,” he added. 

The Shahins had some hope after President Biden signed an government order in July, bolstering an current hostage-recovery regulation. It directed U.S. businesses to speak extra with households of Individuals unlawfully detained abroad and allowed for his or her captors to face sanctions.

Martin Lonergan, who spent 279 days in the Dubai prison with Zack, said he lost a third of his body weight and developed a heart condition due to the inhumane conditions. 

Martin Lonergan, who spent 279 days within the Dubai jail with Zack, stated he misplaced a 3rd of his physique weight and developed a coronary heart situation as a result of inhumane circumstances. 
(Courtesy of Martin Lonergan)

Nevertheless, their request for advocacy for Zack below the regulation, the Levinson Act, was denied inside 5 days. 

“I believe the Biden administration and the State Division ought to have a look at our case and deal with it with somewhat extra respect,” Ramy informed Fox Information. “As a result of we’ve not even been given any of that.”

Ramy was 14 when his father was imprisoned. Now 30, he speaks to his father on the telephone each few days. 

“My dad has no hope,” he stated. “It hurts me each time I speak to him, as a result of he misplaced hope a very long time in the past. He’s a shell of what he was once.”

Information of his situation led Zack’s household to make one remaining enchantment for mercy from the UAE royal household.


“All we wish is mercy,” Zack’s sister-in-law, Aida Dagher, informed Fox Information. “Someone transfer, please. Let this man fly to the medical middle in Houston, near his household, the place he can have no matter is left of his life.”

Zack's, son Ramy said the entire family is still "broken" over their father's imprisonment. 

Zack’s, son Ramy stated the whole household remains to be “damaged” over their father’s imprisonment. 
(Courtesy of the Shahin household)

The State Division repeatedly requested the Shahins to tone down the rhetoric of their mercy letters, emails supplied to Fox Information present. Two days after the letters have been despatched, the information broke about the UAE’s involvement in Griner’s launch

“My dad’s state of affairs was an inconvenience to the U.S.,” Ramy informed Fox Information. “After they have been working with the United Arab Emirates and Russia to barter Brittney Griner’s launch, I really feel like they thought, ‘Let’s not point out Zack Shahin whereas we’re working to get her out, as a result of it may not go proper with them.'”

“To have the letters pushed again and sat on for days and weeks whereas the UAE was clearly serving to America negotiate Brittney Griner’s launched — it is apparent that the division didn’t wish to antagonize the UAE throughout this diplomatic course of,” Lonergan stated. 

The household additionally stated the shut relationship between the U.S. and the UAE additional disincentives the U.S. from advocating for Zack. 

Zack Shahin still has over 40 years left on his sentence. His family said they don't expect him to survive beyond the next few weeks. 

Zack Shahin nonetheless has over 40 years left on his sentence. His household stated they do not count on him to outlive past the subsequent few weeks. 
(Courtesy of Shahin household)

A State Division spokesperson informed Fox Information that they’re commonly involved with the Shahins and can proceed to observe Zack’s case and “present all applicable consular help.”

“We’ve no larger precedence than the protection and safety of U.S. residents abroad,” the spokesperson stated. “We take severely our dedication to help U.S. residents overseas and are offering all applicable help.”


After 15 years and three presidential administrations with little to no motion, the household remains to be distrought over Zack’s absence on daily basis. 

“We’re all damaged,” Ramy stated. “I have a look at my mother, and he or she’s simply hole . . . she will’t perform.” 

“I attempt to placed on a entrance and act robust for my household and my dad, however I really feel like I misplaced part of myself when he went in there,” he added. 

To observe the complete interview with Ramy, Lonergan and Dagher, click on right here

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