x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Prisoner found dead in Dubai jail

Officials say he died of an overdose of prescription pills, but the exact circumstances remain unclear.

DUBAI // A man serving a life sentence for narcotics trafficking died of a drug overdose in his cell this morning, prison officials said.

Yousuf Al Shihi, 35, from Oman, died after taking prescription pills, sources said. A senior prison official who spoke to The National on condition of anonymity said Al Shihi was regularly issued medication for an unidentified condition. The official said Al Shihi hoarded some of the pills for recreational abuse.

"We believe that the prisoner collected pills over several days, then took them all at once," the official said. "He possibly attempted to get high."

Al Shihi was sentenced to life in prison in 2007 for smuggling 100 grams of hashish from Oman. He was in the fifth year of his 25-year term, according to officials. A life sentence is 25 years under UAE law.

A member of the Dubai Central Jail staff said Al Shihi had often threatened to take his own life after complaining that the UAE's narcotics laws were unjust.

"The life sentence was a huge shock to him, as he expected a maximum sentence of four to five years," the staff member said.

The staff member said Al Shihi had been receiving treatment at the Central Prison clinic for several disorders. The staff member said he was issued a specified number of pills every day.

A prisoner in the narcotics section of Dubai Central Prison said Al Shihi's body was discovered this morning.

"When we found the body, we informed a guard who ran to inform his seniors," the prisoner said. "They immediately came back in anti-riot gear."

According to the prisoner, on Tuesday night a cell search was conducted, and at that point Al Shihi must have consumed the pills.

"We think he was force-fed," he said.

The inmate said that they had asked to meet with prosecutors to ask for an investigation but their requests have been declined.

"We had a hunger strike at the narcotics section in February and asked for prosecutors to come and investigate our problems. They refused. We do not know who else we can turn to this time," the prisoner said.

Dubai Public Prosecution is the legal authority that investigates incidents in prison. Prosecution officials did not respond to requests for comment and did not clarify whether an investigation had begun.