x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Daughter collects signatures for father's release from Dubai jail

The protest, outside the UAE Embassy in London, comes a week after a judge rejected an appeal against the seven-year sentence of businessman Safi Qurashi, who was jailed in 2009 for bouncing cheques.

LONDON // The family of a man sentenced in Dubai to seven years in jail for bouncing cheques are making an emotional plea for his release outside the UAE Embassy in London.

Safi Qurashi's 13-year-old daughter Sara is hoping the campaign for the release of her father will gain greater attention in London. Along with two aunts and a cousin, she is helping to maintain a stand collecting signatures outside the embassy in Knightsbridge.

The protest comes a week after a judge rejected an appeal against the seven-year sentence of Qurashi, who was jailed in 2009 for bouncing cheques.

Sara Qurashi said the family were "99 per cent sure" their father would be released.

"After the verdict I cried for a while, then I knew that I had to come here," she said. "Maybe people will listen to me here."

Sara attends school in Dubai, where her mother resides. She aims to be in London for a month and, though the city is "much colder than Dubai", she plans to continue the protest for as long as it takes.

"I just want my dad to come home," Sara said. "I know I shouldn't give up fighting for his release."

Safi Qurashi, who was born in south London, bought the Great Britain island on The World property development in 2008.

He was featured on a Piers Morgan television programme about Dubai, and suggested building a training facility for Liverpool FC on the island.

He was jailed in February 2010 after being found guilty of bouncing cheques worth up to Dh200m.

His family have launched two appeals for his release. The latest was quashed last week in the Court of First Instance.

His family have called for the British government to step in, but a Foreign Office spokesman yesterday suggested that was not viable.

"We have been in regular touch with him and his family since his detention and continue to provide consular assistance and advice where appropriate," the spokesman said. "The judicial process is ongoing and we continue to monitor this case closely. However, we cannot interfere in another country's legal and judicial process, just as it cannot interfere in ours."

The family have collected 600 signatures since starting their protest on Saturday.

They plan to present two open letters to the Embassy, as well as the signatures, when it reopens tomorrow after Eid.

Sara said the holiday period had been particularly difficult. "Yesterday was hard to get through," she said. "I spoke to him on the phone but it wasn't the same. I miss him all the time and I miss going to the beach with him, or watching Liverpool games with him."

mcroucher@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Marie-Louise Olson in Abu Dhabi