Due Process

Internationally respected norms of due process have not been adhered to in a number of ways and at many stages in Shahid’s case. There are several issues of concern in this regard. All of which undermine the pursuit of fair trial and some of which would be grounds for the dismissal of the case itself were the proceedings were conducted in the United States, Germany or most European countries. Such issues of concern include the following

  • Shahid was not granted access to an attorney during police questioning and was denied contact with the American embassy. “I immediately requested to call the embassy when I was arrested and I said that I want a lawyer. These requests were dismissed. Eventually, the US Consular staff was allowed to visit after the interrogation and the visit was conducted under restrictive police supervision and monitoring”
  • Neither the police officer nor investigator of any kind was ever identified to Shahid as such nor when Shahid was taken to the public prosecutor, was he not informed of where he was or to whom he was speaking.”I never knew what was going on or who those people were. Nothing was ever explained to me. By the time I made my first court appearance in Dubai, I didn’t know I had even been to the prosecutor yet. And I didn’t know exactly what the charges were. I wasn’t even sure that the court was court at that point. I thought that it might be —-Chambers or something”
  • During the entire interrogation process no English Language translator was ever present.                     “A number of different people questioned me all of whom were non native English speakers and their language was broken. I had to struggle to make myself understood, oversimplify my statements and a lot of the times they just didn’t bother that they were not qualified to get the details or explanation because it was so exasperating. I asked many times for a translator. They said it wasn’t necessary and they seemed to believe that their English was fluent. But many things got lost were misunderstood and not very clear.”
  • Shahid was coerced into signing a confession by manipulation and threat. “I was told to sign the confession they wrote. I couldn’t read it, so I said How can I sing it when I don’t know what it says? They told me that if I refused to sign it, the judge would be angry and sentence me to be hanged. But if I signed it, the judge would see that I was cooperative and sentence me to only 2 o 3 years, so I signed.
  • The confession that Shahid was made to sign was written entirely in Arabic which Shahid could not read or understand. “When I asked, what was written in it, They told me, “Whatever you said” When I objected I was told nothing about being hanged. Until today, I have no idea what that court confession says. Later, I learnt that my experience in this regard was not that unique.                 (Comment by site moderator:: In fact the experience of Shahid is mild in comparison to others. A review of reported criminal cases in the UAE will reveal that nearly all cases are based upon suspects’ “confessions”. There are documented allegations of systematic beating, torture, intimidation, threats and blackmail, to force suspects to sign confessions which they cannot read or to sign blank pages upon which confessions are later written.)
  • From that outset of court proceedings, until today, Shahid has never been given a copy of his case file to review and respond to specific allegations and evidence. “Obviously it is very difficult to defend yourself when you don’t even know what it is said to substantiate the charges against you. A reporter once told me that he’d seen my case file, I had said to him that he was more informed than i am. There is no disclosure at all though I had made repeated requests.”
  • The private lawyer retained for Shahid by his family in his first trial did not meet Shahid to discuss the case or defense arguments at all. And did not even supply Shahid with a copy of the defense which was submitted to the court. “How on earth can a lawyer defend you without even talking to you to get your side of the story?” Intermittently, he came to visit me only after the initial conviction and death sentence. When I asked him about what he’d said in the defense he told me he did not discuss the actual incident of Mr. Steiner’s death in his arguments. So I’m not really sure that if this person is working for the defense or the prosecution or if he even knows that there is a difference between the two. The same lawyer again submitted a defense to the  appelate court, again, without Shahid’s knowledge of its contents. ‘I haven’t a clue what he said. I intedned to dismiss him as my lawyer and request a lawyer from the government but the appeals trial was over before I could even ask.
  • Shahid’s appellate court trial was concluded in just 3 sessions with a different judge at each hearing.” At the first hearing there was no translator, so it was adjourned. At the second hearing, there was a different judge and he just asked me if I was guilty or not guilty. And I said “not guilty” and it was adjourned. At the third hearing, I was sentenced by yet another judge. So, I really don’t know who from these three actually reviewed the file of they even had the time to do so. There was no testimony at all.
  • The government appointed attorney for Shahid’s appellate retrial met with Shahid one time for approximately 20minutes to discuss the defense after having already submitted the defense to the court without Shahid’s knowledge of its contents. “After a lot of pressure from the consulate and from my family and I think, a court order, the lawyer came to see me. That was once in about 2years. He’d already given a defense to the court which was news to me, but said if I wanted to add anything I could. I asked him to give me a copy of what he’d submitted to the court which he eventually did through the consulate. And I had to get it translated myself to know what he’d said. The first statement in that “defense” was “we accept the previous defense offered in the first trial.” i.e. one written by the lawyer who had never spoken to me about the one incident upon which the case is based. That defense I’ve never seen which resulted in any initial conviction. I did send this  lawyer my own points but I have no way of knowing weather this ever reached the court.
  • Shahid’s lawyer in the appellate court retrial did not speak English. “The one time he met me, he had to bring an assistant who was able to speak broken English. The assistant more often than not, would not translate my comments to the lawyer but would only convey they lawyer’s comments to me. They all seemed to feel quite inconvenienced by the whole thing. Neither the lawyer nor the assistant were cooperative about communicating with my consulate or my family either. They’d hang up on them or just not answer their calls.
  • The quality of translation in court proceedings is substandard. Both in English and in Arabic. “In Sharjah, the court interpreter is an Indian man. Neither English nor Arabic is his language. On the few occasions when I had been allowed to speak, I make a statement equivalent to about four or five paragraphs and he turns to the judge and says about two sentences in Arabic. And that becomes my official testimony. It’s maddening.
  • In the entire court process Shahid was never informed about what transpired in court from one hearing to the next. “It’s like being tried in absentia. The lawyer doesnt’ talk to me the judge doesn’t talk to me. I’m just brought in see them talking to each other writing things down, handing papers back and forth. Then I’m taken out and told that the next hearing is next month.

 

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