Statement from the Zack Shahin Family on Prisoner Exchange Resulting in Release of Brittney Griner
- 12/8/22

HOUSTON, TX—The family of Zack Shahin who has been held in Dubai for nearly 15 years and is currently hospitalized facing possible death for crimes that were never committed, released the following statement in response to the release of Brittney Griner:

“We are excited and happy for Brittney Griner and her family and congratulate the President on his successful efforts.  We don’t wish to take away from the joy of the moment, but as our loved one continues to face death in the UAE for crimes he didn’t commit, we must take this opportunity to call out the lack of similar effort by the U.S. government in the case of Zack Shahin.”

“Zack Shahin was falsely accused and convicted in a sham trial. After 15 years in squalid conditions, Zack developed ulcerated sores and rotting flesh on his body. After two emergency surgeries, Zack remains hospitalized, unstable, and is dangerously deteriorating.”

“Now that the President has negotiated with a man he has called “a war criminal” to exchange a convicted arms dealer to secure the rightful release of American Brittney Griner, we are begging him to show the same commitment to working with the United Arab Emirates—a U.S. ally—to secure the release of Zack Shahin, a broken, frail American, before it is too late.  Please Mr. President, help us.”


Wife of American Held in Dubai for 14 years Reacts to the UAE’s Overturning the Conviction of Human Rights Lawyer Asim Ghafoor
Family Pleads with U.S. Officials to Show Similar Efforts for Zack Shahin
- 8/11/22

Houston, Texas – Soha Shahin, the wife of American businessman Zack Shahin, who has been illegally detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for fifteen years on bogus political charges, released the following statement regarding a UAE court overturning a three-year sentence for human rights lawyer Asim Ghafoor:

“It is with a great sense of relief to discover that Asim Ghafoor and his family will not be made to suffer the same pain and anguish that we have endured for the past decade and a half.

Due to his affiliation with the tragically murdered Jamal Kashoggi, Mr. Ghafoor’s case created international awareness and substantial efforts by United States officials to secure his release.

American officials attended the court proceedings in the Ghafoor case, creating pressure for the conviction to be overturned. This stands in stark contrast to efforts to free my husband, which have been largely constrained to perfunctory letters from the State Department that are routinely ignored by the UAE. The joyful success in the Ghafoor case demonstrates what the State Department can accomplish when proper and aggressive steps are taken.

There is no justification for not giving Zack, the only American held in Dubai, the same dedicated effort to seek his release.

President Biden’s recent Executive Order regarding detained Americans has given government officials new tools designed specifically to bring Americans like my husband home. It is long past time for the State Department to step up their efforts to ensure Zack and all other American's who aren't front page news receive the same intensity in effort that Mr. Ghafoor and Britney Griner are getting.”

Shahin is a former PepsiCo executive who remains in jail in Dubai under a 47-year sentence on dubious fraud charges that resulted from power politics among competing factions of that nation’s royal family. Now 58 years old, Shahin has been kidnapped, beaten, abused, illegally renditioned, and wrongfully imprisoned for nearly 15 years and now is in failing health. Family members haven’t even been allowed to visit him. As recently as last month, the UAE completely ignored a letter from the U.S. Secretary of State’s Office requesting Zack’s release on humanitarian grounds.


Human Rights Watch Letter
- 8/3/22

To Whom it May Concern,

RE: The Case of Zack Shahin

I am a deputy director in the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) supervising the organization’s work on the United Arab Emirates. My job at HRW includes overseeing and supporting fact-finding investigations into human rights violations in the UAE, including allegations of torture in detention, arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearances, due process violations, and unfair trials.

I write concerning the case of detained American businessman Zack Shahin, 59, whom UAE authorities have detained for the past 14 years in a UAE prison and subjected him to what amounts to arbitrary detention, due process violations that undermined his right to a fair trial, alleged ill-treatment, and inadequate medical care in detention that family members say have resulted in health problems.

Click here to read the entire letter from Michael Page, Deputy Director of Middle East and North Africa Division for Human Rights Watch

Family Calls for Release of Zack Shahin From Dubai Prison After President Biden’s New Executive Order
- 8/2/22

Washington, D.C. – The family of Zack Shahin, an American citizen who is illegally imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates, has called for the State Department to step up their efforts to free Zack after President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order that strengthens U.S. efforts to release and repatriate Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad.

Shahin is a former PepsiCo executive who remains in jail in Dubai under a 47-year sentence on dubious fraud charges that resulted from power politics among competing factions of that nation’s royal family. Now 59 years old, Shahin has been kidnapped, beaten, abused, illegally renditioned and wrongfully imprisoned for nearly 15 years and now is in failing health.

Family members haven’t even been allowed to visit him. As recently as last month, the UAE completely ignored a request from the U.S. Secretary of State’s Office for Zack’s release on humanitarian grounds. The President’s new executive order provides a substantive platform for the Biden administration to apply pressure that could lead to Zack’s release.

“After the issuance of this executive order by President Biden, we are hopeful that our State Department will use this new tool to press for Zack’s immediate release,” said Soha Shahin, the prisoner’s wife. “My husband is an innocent victim of a ruthless political struggle thousands of miles from home. And unfortunately, hostages of American allies like Dubai don’t get nearly the attention from diplomats or journalists that hostages of our nation’s enemies do.

“Because he’s imprisoned by a ‘friend’ of our country rather than by an outright foe such as Russia or Iran, Zack has been allowed to languish in prison in a country that is notorious for its treatment of prisoners, said Ramy Shahin, Zack’s son, who was only fourteen when his father was taken.

“My dad’s mind is tortured, and it’s slowly destroying my mum and sister,” Ramy Shahin said. “We aren’t sure how much longer he can survive physically, and his rapidly deteriorating mental health has been diagnosed, although the UAE still doesn’t recognize mental-health issues. So, we are calling on our State Department to leverage President Biden’s new order to effect Zack’s immediate release.”

The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation has called for Zack’s release. “The government of Dubai illegally detains Zack Shahin, and President Biden’s Executive Order authorizes the use of deterrent tools urgently needed in this tragic case,” said Diane Foley, founder and president of the group and mother of the freelance journalist killed in Syria in 2014. “We respectfully call on the U.S. State Department to demand Zach Shahin’s immediate release.”

The new Executive Order is titled “Bolstering Efforts to Bring Hostages and Wrongfully Detained U.S. Nationals Home.” According to the White House, it reaffirms the President’s and administration’s fundamental commitment to bring home those Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad.

The Shahin family said the State Department should use this expanded authority and the directive to coordinate with other agencies under the Executive Order and immediately move to apply sanctions to Mohammed Ibrahim Al Shaibani, who is head of the Dubai Rulers Court, Managing Director of the Investment Corporation of Dubai, and a very powerful man who is directly responsible for Shahin’s wrongful detainment.

Shaibani is a serial offender with four different petitions against him for Magnitsky Sanctions, which stem from the 2017 Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Magnitsky targets perpetrators of corruption and serious human rights abuse around the world. Also, because of his abuses against citizens of the United Kingdom, Shaibani will be arrested upon his arrival should he visit the U.K.”

Zack Shahin is a U.S. citizen born in Lebanon and the only American currently held in Dubai. He is also believed to be the longest-serving American white-collar prisoner held anywhere in the world. Zack has been subjected to torture, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance, among other serious abuses, according to Detained American, a legal-advocacy non-governmental organization.

Over the years, the State Department has investigated Zack’s case. Still, their low-grade efforts under multiple administrations have mostly proven ineffective in advancing Zack’s cause or improving his treatment in prison. The UAE has routinely ignored requests to return Zack to the United States and, at times, even flagrantly defied international law.

The facts make it clear that Zack is a political prisoner who qualifies not only for Magnitsky Sanctions but also for designation as a hostage under the 2020 Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage Taking Accountability Act.


“ Liz Truss urged to impose sanctions on Dubai official over jailed British businessmen”

- The Telegraph, 2/13/22

“A cross-party group of Peers and MPs has called on the UK to impose sanctions on one of Dubai’s most senior officials, over what they say is ‘state sanctioned persecution’ of two British businessmen.

“Ryan Cornelius and his business partner Charles Ridley have spent more than 14 years in jail in the United Arab Emirates after being convicted of fraud involving a $500 million loan to his business from the Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB).

“Mr Cornelius, 67, served his original 10-year sentence, handed down in 2009, but in 2018 was given an additional 20 years under retrospective application of a law designed to keep debtors in prison until they can discharge their debts.

“Peers and MPs - including Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Andrew Mitchell, Lord Hain, Sir Simon Hughes, Sir Peter Bottomley and Stephen Kinnock - say the pair were convicted on charges following a ‘fundamentally flawed trial process’.

“They have now urged Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, to designate Mohammed Al Shaibani, the director of the Ruler’s Court in Dubai, for sanctions under the UK’s global human rights sanctions regulations and the global anti-corruption sanctions regulations.”

Click here to read more.

“ The Dubai Debt Trap”

- The Economist, 12/15/21

“Ryan Cornelius hadn’t even intended to set foot outside Dubai airport. When he boarded a flight from Karachi on May 21st 2008, he planned only on changing planes to travel on to his home in Bahrain. At the last moment, the 54-year-old British businessman decided to stop over in Dubai to meet his business partner.

“Three plain-clothes policemen arrested Cornelius as he left the airport. Even in his shock he was struck by how young they were. The police seized his phone and locked him in a windowless room. Customs officers searched him, saying that they believed he was carrying drugs. They found nothing.”

Click here to read more.

“ British activist treks across US to demand UAE release jailed businessman”

- Middle East Eye, 11/16/21

“Martin Lonergan has walked more than two thousand kilometers across much of the southern United States - braving hurricane-force winds, being bitten by a venomous snake, and suffering temporary blindness.

“Still, nothing he's faced in his arduous two-month trek from Houston, Texas to Washington compares with his nine-month stint at al-Awir prison in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).”

Click here to read more.

“The longest-serving overseas American prisoner goes on hunger strike”

- TRT World, 6/3/21

“A former executive of American food giant PepsiCo has gone on a hunger strike after he was tortured at a notorious Dubai jail, a rights group said.

“His case has become a rallying cry for some Americans against rights abuses of prisoners in the UAE. Shahin, a US citizen born in Lebanon, is believed to be the longest-serving American overseas white-collar prisoner in the world.”

Click here to read more.

“‘CAN’T TAKE MORE PAIN’ US businessman on hunger strike after being ‘tortured’ in Dubai jail during 47-year prison term for ‘fraud’”

- The U.S. Sun, 6/2/21

“AN American businessman is on a hunger strike after allegedly being tortured in a hellish Dubai jail during a 47-year prison term for fraud, say human rights campaigners.

“Diabetic Texan Zack Shahin, 57, is "broken and beaten", and suffers a raft of health problems from years of neglect, warns Detained International.”

Click here to read more.

“Houston family with father imprisoned in Dubai living nightmare”

- Houston Chronicle, 4/22/14

Click here to read more.

“United Arab Emirates (UAE)”

- Human Rights Watch, 2009

“The UAE's economy stumbled in 2009 and the human rights situation worsened, particularly for migrant workers. Construction and related industries sent thousands of migrant workers home after projects were scrapped or suspended. Authorities jailed a number of UAE citizens and foreigners for debt and corruption, with some languishing in jail for months without charge or after completing their sentences.”

Click here to read more.