x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Daughter meets ambassador in London over jailed father

Protest outside the UAE embassy wins Sara an audience with envoy to discuss her father's case.

Sara Qurashi, 13, left, and her cousin Saamiya Qurashi, 9, outside the UAE Embassy in London where her family are staging a protest on behalf of Sara's father, who is serving a seven-year prison sentence.
Sara Qurashi, 13, left, and her cousin Saamiya Qurashi, 9, outside the UAE Embassy in London where her family are staging a protest on behalf of Sara's father, who is serving a seven-year prison sentence.

DUBAI // A girl of 13 who staged an appeal outside the UAE Embassy in London for her father's release from a Dubai jail has discussed the case with the ambassador.

Sara Qurashi took time out from her month-long protest to meet the UAE Ambassador, Abdul Rahman Ghanem Al Mutiawee.

Her father, the London-born businessman Safi Qurashi, is serving a seven-year sentence for bouncing cheques worth up to Dh200 million.

Mr Qurashi's family claim he is innocent and launched their protest last week, days after a second appeal was thrown out by a Dubai court.

Sara said Mr Al Mutiawee invited her and an adult family member into the embassy in Knightsbridge on Friday.

"He was a really nice man," said Sara, who is taking a month-long break from school in Dubai. "We spent roughly one hour with him. He was asking why we were here and I said it was because legal experts have proved my dad innocent.

"He asked why we didn't do it in Dubai and I said because no one really listens there. He said I should have been a lawyer."

Mr Qurashi, who was born in Balham, South London, bought the Great Britain island on Dubai's The World development in 2008. He was featured on a Piers Morgan television programme made for the British ITV network about Dubai in which he suggested building a training facility for Liverpool FC on the island.

However, he was jailed in February 2010 over bounced cheques. The latest appeal for his release was rejected two weeks ago in the Court of First Instance in Dubai.

The family member who sat in on the meeting said the ambassador had promised to pass on two letters from Sara to the UAE Government. The family halted its campaign to collect signatures of support over the weekend but may resume it today or tomorrow, depending on whether their lawyer receives a response from authorities in Dubai.

"Our objective for the campaign wasn't to get a meeting with the ambassador," the family member said. "Our objective was to hopefully start some dialogue between authorities in Dubai.

"This was a step in the right direction. It was very kind of the ambassador to ask Safi's daughter inside. He was attentive and listened carefully to what we both had to say."

An embassy spokesman confirmed the meeting took place.

"We checked their letter and the ambassador promised to send it to the officials in Dubai," he said. "At the same time, we cannot interfere in the judicial process there."

mcroucher@thenational.ae