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.