x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 September 2017

UAE chess official tells of vicious street attack

Saud Mohammed Al Marzooqi, who suffers from asthma, sustained five broken ribs and numerous bruises, and stopped breathing at one point during the attack in Hungary.

An Emirati chess official described yesterday how he was deliberately run over by a car and kicked and beaten unconscious in the street by three Hungarian police officers who thought he was an illegal immigrant.

Saud Mohammed Al Marzooqi, who suffers from asthma, sustained five broken ribs and numerous bruises on his chest and back, and stopped breathing at one point during the attack on Friday evening in the town of Szeged, near the border with Serbia.

Mr Al Marzooqi, a member of the UAE Chess Federation, was visiting the town with the Emirati chess grand master Salim Abdulrahman.

"Salim and I were walking back to our hotel," Mr Al Marzooqi told The National from his hospital room in Szeged. "As we were walking a group of drunken men approached us and started intimidating us so we avoided them and made our way to our residence."

The two Emiratis were about 1.5 kilometres from the hotel when a small car drove up to them and the occupants began shouting in Hungarian. "We did not understand what they were saying and asked if they could speak in English, but they opened the door and came at us.

"As I slowed down near the hotel they knocked me down to the floor with the car and then jumped out and attacked me."

Mr Abdulrahman was able to escape but Mr Al Marzooqi was kicked and beaten. "I told them to take my money and tried to indicate that I could not breathe and I was asthmatic, but they kept hitting me until I stopped breathing."

The men then picked him up and asked him in English for identification. "I was surprised when they told me they were immigration police. I told them I lived in that hotel and that I was here legally.

"I asked them why didn't they speak in English to me as I was a foreigner there."

The men left and Mr Al Marzooqi lost consciousness. Mr Abdulrahman immediately contacted their host, the Hungarian chess grand master Peter Leko, for help.

"We couldn't call the police because it was police who attacked us, but Peter came and called an ambulance that took me to hospital," Mr Al Marzooqi said.

The chess official's brother arrived in Szeged yesterday, and Mr Al Marzooqi was also visited by UAE embassy's charge d'affaires in Vienna, Ali Al Marzooqi, who is not a relation.

The diplomat "drove directly to see him and met the mayor of Szeged, prosecutors and the police commissioner," said Sheikh Saud bin Abdelaziz Al Mualla, president of the UAE Chess Federation.

"The Hungarian ambassador also informed me that their ministry of foreign affairs is closely following the investigations," he said.

Sheikh Saud said the incident had been described to him as a misunderstanding and a case of bad judgment.

"It appears they have a problem with illegal immigrants in that town, and they suspected the two Emiratis," he said. "The police admitted to us that the attack was wrong and apologised for it."

Mr Al Marzooqi is expected to remain in hospital for at least another week.

Tibor Papp, director of foreign affairs at Szeged city council, said: "The city's leadership was informed about the attack through the media. It is not usual and not normal that either foreign or Hungarian citizens might be attacked in Szeged.

"What the city's leadership requires from the responsible investigation state organ, the Prosecutorial Office for Investigation, is to rapidly investigate the case and to correctly, adequately and satisfactorily inform the public immediately."

A spokesman for regional prosecutors said a decision on whether to open an investigation into the police officers will be made by Thursday.

Ferenc Szanka, a prosecutor in Szeged who is handling the case, said that according to a complaint received yesterday, Mr Al Marzooqi sustained broken ribs after being chased and beaten by three plainclothes police officers.

amustafa@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by the Associated Press