x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Prisoners threaten hunger strike

A group of prisoners has handed a list of demands to prison officials, and a source on the inside says some inmates have already begun their hunger strike.

DUBAI // About 120 prisoners in Dubai Police Central Prison are threatening to go on hunger strike if inmates who have served their sentences or been acquitted are not released.

The prisoners are also complaining of ill treatment by prison staff, saying some inmates were being referred to the prison's in-house medical centre when they were in need of outside treatment.

A source at the prison said some of the inmates had already started their hunger strike.

Yesterday, Major Gen Khamis al Mazeina, the deputy head of Dubai Police, dismissed the allegations.

"Having medical treatment is a human right that we cannot ignore. Our medical service is well equipped and we do refer those who need treatment we cannot provide to an outside hospital."

He said that some prisoners, especially drug addicts, wanted to be treated in outside hospitals because then they could get friends to smuggle drugs to them, as had happened in the past.

A prisoner who was not participating in the protest said that the unrest was confined to the section of the prison that houses drug offenders. He agreed that the protest could be partly motivated by their desire for drugs.

"However, there is also an issue of delays in the release procedures and that is not due to the prison administration as a whole but rather to individuals who neglect their work and do not do the paperwork."

Major Gen al Mazeina said complaints concerning the continued imprisonment of those inmates who had already served their time were in the hands of the public prosecution and the courts, the two bodies responsible for ordering the release of prisoners.

He said the police would refer any complaints to the concerned authorities.

However, he added: "We can guarantee that there is no prisoner who is held in prison after his sentence is completed unless there is a decision, with a legal ground, from the concerned bodies in that regard."

According to the police, prisoners can be kept in custody after serving their time if they have not met the financial penalties of their sentence. In addition, those who have been acquitted in a lower court may not be released if there is an ongoing appeals process.

The Dubai Public Prosecution was not available for comment.


* With additional reporting by Awad Mustafa