ROTTING IN DUBAI: The family of an American detained in the UAE claims the US abandoned him for Brittney Griner.
Zack Shahin has been rotting — literally rotting — in a Dubai prison for the past 15 years.
The bright fluorescent lights in the concrete cell that the American citizen shares with 60 other prisoners are always on. The air conditioner is on all the time. The air is damp and cold, and it smells of decaying flesh.
Zack sleeps on a plastic mattress with a filthy blanket and in unwashed clothes. Prisoners are rarely allowed to leave their cells.
His family insists on his innocence.
But Zack, who was sick, sleep-deprived, and starving for years, had lost his will to live.
FAMILY OF DIEING AMERICAN IMPRISONED IN DUBAI BEGS FOR HELP: An American prisoner is literally ‘rotting’ in Dubai as his family begs for mercy.
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“He’s rotting,” said Martin Lonergan, a British activist who met Zack in prison. “Imagine a man dying from rotting… they’re cutting bits of Zack away, and he’s dying trying to fight the infection.”
Zack’s condition worsened nearly three months ago, and he was transferred to a Dubai hospital for multiple unsuccessful surgeries.
On Nov. 23, his family submitted mercy letters to the State Department in a final attempt to bring Zack home. The Shahins worked with State Department officials for nearly two weeks, revising their letters until they were finally sent to the UAE on December 6.
The Shahins had no idea that the United States was negotiating the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, which the UAE was assisting with.
“They completely abandoned us… they completely pushed us to the side,” Zack’s son Ramy Shahin said to Fox News. “Perhaps we’re not newsworthy enough for them — we’re not famous, we’re just a regular family — and they just abandoned us.”
‘They simply took him down.’
Zack, a Lebanese immigrant who moved to Texas when he was five years old, worked as a Pepsi truck driver in Houston. He eventually worked his way up to become a company executive.
Mohammed Khalfan bin Kharbash, the country’s finance minister and chairman of the Dubai Islamic Bank, recruited Zack to the UAE in 2004. He was named CEO of Deyaar, a real estate development firm owned by the bank. Over the next four years, the $5 million private firm grew to a $1.5 billion publicly traded company, becoming the Dubai Stock Exchange’s second-largest publicly traded real estate company.
According to his family, when Dubai’s ruler died in 2006, the political fallout engulfed bin Kharbash and disrupted Zack’s success. In early March 2008, he resigned from Deyaar.
Zack, then 43, was summoned to an auditing meeting on March 23. According to Zack’s family, he was abducted by state security there. He was brought to the police station after 17 days in solitary confinement and arrested on charges of fraud, embezzlement, and other financial crimes, which his family claims are false and politically motivated.
Zack Shahin, 59, has been held illegally in a Dubai prison for 15 years for crimes he did not commit, according to his family.
Zack Shahin, 59, has been held illegally in a Dubai prison for 15 years for crimes he did not commit, according to his family. (Photo courtesy of the Shahins)
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According to his family, he was detained for 13 months before formal charges were brought against him. Apart from a brief release on bail, Zack spent the next nine years in prison before being convicted in 2017. He was sentenced to 49 years in prison, not including time served.
His family is adamant that he is not guilty. According to the Shahins, the big four global accounting firms audited Deyaar during Zack’s tenure as CEO and discovered no financial losses or evidence of the financial crimes he was accused of.
“My father is just an ordinary American guy who started working hard to make a name for himself,” Ramy explained to Fox News. “He took this small real estate company and grew it into what it is today, constructing much of what Dubai is known for. Then they simply took him down.”
‘My father has no hope.’
According to Detained International, a British organization that provides pro bono legal services to prisoners, Zack, now 58, is the longest-serving American white-collar prisoner in the world.
Several organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Detained International, and the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, have attempted to raise awareness about Zack’s detention over the years, but have received no response from the US government.
“I’m going to fight until he gets out,” Ramy declared. “And if I don’t succeed, so be it. But I’m not going to let this go.”
Zack’s mental and physical health has deteriorated significantly while incarcerated. His family believes he will not live much longer.
Zack’s mental and physical health has deteriorated significantly while incarcerated. His family believes he will not live much longer. (Photo courtesy of the Shahins)
Zack suffers from a host of health issues, including an infection in his lungs and rotting flesh and skin sores. Because they have never seen his medical records, the Shahins suspect his condition is worse than they realize.
Lonergan, the British man who met Zack while he was imprisoned, compared the prison to a dungeon.
“It is where you are pushed away to be forgotten about,” he said.
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Lonergan, who works for Detained International, was imprisoned with Zack for 10 months beginning in 2020. From across the hall, he first noticed the American through the bars of his own cell. Despite Zack’s severe physical ailments, Lonergan claims his mental health is “far, far worse.”
“I had conversations with Zack, and you can see a glimmer of light in his eyes when he talks about his story,” Lonergan said. “The majority of what I’ve discovered stems from research I conducted when I was released.”