British nationals file torture complaint against Interpol president

Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, the complaint was submitted to Austrian prosecutors in Vienna, where Emirati Raisi is currently attending the body's general assembly.
Interpol (Photo | AP)
Interpol (Photo | AP)

VIENNA: Lawyers for two Britons have filed a criminal complaint in Vienna against Interpol's president Ahmed Naser al-Raisi over their alleged arrest and torture, one of their lawyers said on Monday.

The two Britons, Matthew Hedges, and Ali Issa Ahmad, accuse Raisi of having ultimate responsibility -- as a senior interior ministry security official -- for the torture and arbitrary detention they say they suffered in the United Arab Emirates.

Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, the complaint was submitted to Austrian prosecutors in Vienna, where Emirati Raisi is currently attending the body's general assembly.

Austrian prosecutors can in theory judge crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture under universal jurisdiction if suspects are on its national territory, regardless of where the crimes took place.

"We hope that the Austrian authorities will investigate and prosecute these very serious allegations," said lawyer Rodney Dixon, quoted in a statement.

The complaint is the fifth of its kind filed against Raisi, following similar ones in Turkey, France, Sweden, and Norway.

Hedges was arrested in 2018 on suspicion of being a British spy after travelling to the UAE for PhD research. He was pardoned and released days after being handed a life sentence later that same year.

He told AFP that he spent seven months in solitary confinement and was forced to take medication as part of "a very specific strategy to inflict psychological torture".

The UAE has previously denied any mistreatment.

Ahmad said he was repeatedly beaten and even stabbed during a month in detention in January 2019, allegedly for enthusiastically supporting the UAE's Gulf rivals Qatar during an AFC Asian Cup football match against Iraq.

During his arrest, a policeman cut the Qatari flag out of his T-shirt with a pocketknife, injuring Ahmad in the process, he told AFP.

France, where Interpol is headquartered, opened an investigation into alleged complicity in torture by Raisi in March 2022.

The Vienna Public Prosecutor's Office and the Emirati embassy in Vienna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In November 2021, Raisi was elected Interpol president despite protests from human rights organizations.

Monday's complaint also includes the case of Bahraini dissident Ahmed Jaafar Mohamed Ali, who allegedly has been detained and tortured in Bahrain since January 2022.

Convicted of "terrorism-related offences", Ali was arrested and extradited from Serbia, where he had applied for asylum, following an Interpol Red Notice issued by Bahrain.

Raisi was elected Interpol president in November 2021.

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