BEIRUT (AP) — A Lebanese man who was detained in the United Arab Emirates on unknown charges has died in custody, rights observers and family members said on Friday, raising questions about his possible mistreatment by authorities.
A committee of family members of Lebanese citizens detained in the UAE, including the man who died earlier this month, alleged in a statement that Ghazi Ezzedine, 55, had died under torture.
The UAE foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sima Watling, a researcher with Amnesty International focused on the Arab Gulf country, said that according to Ezzedine’s family, he had been arrested on March 22 along with eight other people, including two of his brothers, on unknown charges.
Ezzedine died on May 4, she said. His family was only notified several days later, when his son was asked by authorities to come to the cemetery and identify the body, she added. Ezzedine’s son was only permitted to see his father’s face, while his body was kept covered.
UAE authorities denied the family’s request to bring him back to Lebanon for burial, Watling said. The two brothers who were detained along with him were subsequently released from detention but banned from leaving the country.
A Lebanese official who is following the case told The Associated Press that Ezzedine’s cause of death was unknown. He said eight members of the same family were detained for unknown reasons. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because diplomatic contacts between Lebanon and the UAE are ongoing regarding the death and the repatriation of the body.
Afif Shouman, head of a group of Lebanese families with relatives detained in the Gulf country, said Ezzedine had lived in the UAE for 30 years “without so much as a traffic ticket.”
There were “no suspicions about the man that he got involved in political matters or even religious ones,” he said.
UAE authorities have detained dozens of Lebanese, mostly Shiites, in the past over alleged links to the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. The UAE, like other Gulf Cooperation Council members, considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
In 2019, the UAE sentenced one Lebanese national to life in prison and two to ten years in prison on charges of links to Hezbollah.
Amnesty International said in a statement at the time the trial of the men “failed to meet international fair trial standards,” as the evidence included confessions that were “extracted under duress, and the defendants were detained incommunicado for months and denied access to lawyers during interrogation and investigation.”
Watling said Amnesty is concerned about the lack of transparency regarding Ezzedine’s case and the linked detentions.
“If it is found that his death was indeed unlawful, they must ensure that all those suspected of torture and unlawful killing, including those with command responsibility, are held accountable,” she said.