A British army veteran who has spent more than a year in prison on false drug offences in the United Arab Emirates has been cleared of all charges.
Andy Neal, 44, was arrested in October 2018 by Dubai police at the apartment block he shared with his wife and two children.
The father-of-two was caged in a Dubai jail for five months before being transferred to the al-Sadr maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi in March. He languished there for a further seven months.
‘We knew he was innocent’, his parents Sue and Maurice Neal told Sky News.
‘We would like to thank everyone for their support. We just want him home.’
British army veteran Andy Neal, pictured here in a family photo, has been cleared of the drugs charges that saw him spend seven months in prisons across the UAE. Mr Neal was forced to sign a confession to narcotics offences in October 2018 and has been caged ever since
In April, Mr Neal’s lawyers presented his case to the United Nations Special Commissioner on torture and unlawful detention in a new bid to get him freed.
There was no evidence that Mr Neal was ever involved in the supply of drugs in any of the Emirates.
The father-of-two had his hopes of being released repeatedly dashed and was transferred from a Dubai jail to a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi in what is seen as a political move by the prosecutor to distance himself from the wrongful arrest.
Mr Neal also reportedly suffered from PTSD after touring Afghanistan.
He had lived in Dubai with his family since 2015, running a dog training school when he was suddenly arrested last October.
A man that Mr Neal had never met, told Dubai police that he was a supplier in an international drugs ring. Mr Neal, pictured in a family photo, denied any involvement in narcotics and Dubai prosecutors even said he was not guilty but left him in jail
Despite denying any involvement with drugs he was forced to sign a confession in Arabic admitting his involvement in a drugs ring.
He was arrested after a man he had never met named him as a supplier involved in an international drugs ring.
When the case came to court his accuser admitted he had never met Andy and retracted his statement.
Despite the lack of evidence, prosecutors refused to release him with police having mistakenly allowed the main drug pusher to leave the country.
Analysis of Andy’s phone records showed he never had any contact with the other 16 people arrested. No drugs were found at his home and all drugs tests proved negative.
The human rights lawyers are increasing pressure to get the father of two released and reunite him with is wife Sue and two young children (Mr Neal and his family, pictured)
The prosecutor had said he would make a final decision on Andy’s fate in January but then transferred the case to Abu Dhabi.
Campaign group Detained in Dubai, who worked to secure Andy’s release, said the move was aimed at avoiding embarrassment over the botched investigation.
Radha Stirling, CEO if the Detained in Dubai, said: ‘His treatment by the UAE is disgraceful. Andy and his family’s lives have been turned upside-down because the Dubai police and Public Prosecutor cannot admit that his arrest was a mistake from the beginning.
‘The British government has conspicuously failed to stand up for Andy, though he risked his life to stand up for the United Kingdom for over 20 years.
Mr Neal can be seen on his wedding day with his wife Sue. The former Corporal received 17 medals and a bravery commendation during his two decades in the forces
‘The Foreign Office has provided no support for him and his family, and the Foreign Secretary has been silent. In these circumstances, Andy’s only recourse is to the United Nations.
‘It is outrageous that mere accusation is sufficient in the United Arab Emirates for someone to be treated as guilty; and even more outrageous that proof of innocence can be blatantly disregarded just to protect the professional reputations of those in law enforcement, when a man’s life and freedom are on the line.’
He was visited by a doctor over concerns about his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the former soldier was bluntly told ‘it was all in his head.’
Andy, who was awarded 17 medals and a bravery commendation during his two decades in the army, was allowed to see his wife once a week while being held in Abu Dhabi.
The family enlisted the help of their local MP and Andy’s former commanding officer in an attempt to get the Government involved and put pressure on the UAE to speed up his release.
A spokesman for London based Guernica 37 Chambers said: ‘It is argued on his behalf in the Communication to the UN that this decision to transfer the case to Abu Dhabi is clearly a politically motivated decision on behalf of the Public Prosecutor, given that he is reportedly seeking promotion.
Mr Neal, pictured, suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after things he saw and experienced in Afhanistan. A doctor recently visited the former soldier and told him its ‘all in his head’
‘To release Mr. Neal now would mean that his department would be forced to admit fault, whereas by transferring the case to Abu Dhabi, it is no longer his responsibility.
‘Whilst in custody, Mr. Neal has been denied his prescribed medication to treat his diagnosed PTSD following his final tour of Afghanistan. The visiting psychiatrist chose to interrogate Mr. Neal rather than provide any counselling.
The protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms ought to go beyond the political posturing of national states; human rights are universal, they are not dependent on diplomatic, trade or military allegiance, and yet governments consistently allow such factors to blinker their policies to the detriment of individuals, rather than discharge their obligation to humanity.
In filing this petition of complaint, Guernica urges the UN Special Procedures Branch to circumstances of Mr. Neal’s detention, to conduct an inspection of the conditions of his custody and examine the on-going ill-treatment with a view to securing his immediate release and exoneration.’