x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Britain requests evidence in case of prisoner who died in police custody

Lee Brown died while in police custody last April in Dubai but the British government is still waiting on UAE authorities for evidence about the cause of death.

DUBAI // More than six months after the British tourist Lee Brown died in Dubai police custody, the British government says it is still waiting on UAE authorities for evidence about the cause of death.

On Sunday Alistair Burt, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the British foreign office, filed an official request for evidence relating to the case, during a visit to the emirate.

Brown died on April 12 after being arrested at the Burj Al Arab hotel. A London coroner's inquest has been delayed because of a lack of documentation to support an official UAE post-mortem report.

"We're very aware of the circumstances surrounding Lee Brown's death, as are the authorities here," said Mr Burt. "We are in contact with the lawyers of Lee Brown back in London and we are able to raise the case here. We have raised the issue with authorities here."

Brown, 39, was arrested on April 6 after being accused of assaulting a hotel maid and was taken to Bur Dubai Police Station, where he died six days later.

His relatives allege he died after being beaten by police. However, post-mortem examinations by Dubai Police and Dubai Public Prosecution found he choked on his own vomit.

The coroner's court has sought witness statements from seven people, including police officers and hotel staff, as well as photographs of Brown's body.

Susan Brown, his sister, said the family had been told by foreign office officials that Mr Burt would raise the issue at Sunday's UK-UAE Joint Taskforce meeting.

"We are completely aware of what's going on," she said. "We'd already instructed them how we wanted to progress."

She said the family's lawyers had read the police report and collected a "quite a comprehensive list" of further evidence that they believe is needed.

"It's been over six months and we've had no evidence yet," Ms Brown said.

Mr Burt said consular staff had established a working group with police to resolve "difficult cases".

He stressed that there were currently 55 Britons in detention in the UAE and 120 continuing cases - out of 100,000 Britons who live in the UAE, and 1 million who visit each year.

"The numbers should be seen in proportion," he said.

mcroucher@thenational.ae