A Hard-Working American, Locked Away

Zack is a hard-working, true American family man in every sense of the word. He proudly attended Ohio State University where he studied business management, he continued his education in America at the BAI University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he obtained an Executive MBA in 2003, and he was a shining example of young entrepreneurship.

But then … well, his story reads something like a script for a horror movie.

1980s-2007: The Years Leading Up to Zack’s Unjust Arrest

In the 1980s, Zack Shahin embarks on a career with a great American brand, PepsiCo, and works his way through the ranks to become merchandising director with responsibility for the Middle East. In his early 30s and newly married, he moves his family to Dubai, where he accepts an offer from the then finance minister Mohammed Khalfan Bin Kharbash to become CEO of Global Real Estate, a company that would eventually change its name to Deyaar. Zack and his wife Soha have two children, Ramy and Meera.

Under Zack’s leadership, Deyaar thrives, beating all expectations to become a regional and global success. But Zack’s children, now in their teens need stability and the benefit of American schooling, so he and his wife decide to bring the family back to the U.S. to focus on their children’s future.

2008: Zack’s Hell Begins

In January 2008, Zack informs Mohammed Khalfan Bin Kharbash that he is resigning to return to America, but agrees to hold his resignation until the next board meeting in March.

Zack attends an Audit meeting on 23rd March 2008 for Deyaar, the meeting is held at the Rulers court in Dubai. As Zack is about to leave the meeting, several plain clothes Dubai state security officials arrive, screaming at him and demanding he send his staff home. Zack is held there until midnight when, in shackles, he is taken to his house by the secretive state security forces. He is not allowed to speak to his wife or children, other than to tell her the men ransacking their home can do as they please. The home is searched with the children in the house, his family are frightened, his children crying, his home destroyed. No search warrant is produced.

Zack, still in painful shackles, is bundled in darkness to a waiting unmarked car and is then taken to the Dubai state security jail, a jail which holds terrorists. Zack is then enforced disappeared by Dubai police and Dubai state security,  held incommunicado in arbitrary detention for 17 days he is tortured and abused, told he will be killed, and that his wife and children will die too. He was denied any access to the US Consulate , his family or any lawyer. Five days after been taken to Dubai state security jail, Zack is finally allowed to call his distraught wife. Yet the guards restrict him to just 30 seconds. In that 30 seconds his captors force him to lie to his wife and tell her “I am with my friends, I am fine we are going over papers and getting some work done, I’ll see you soon, goodbye.” Zack was anything but fine.

Zack’s hell in Dubai has only just started. After four years in the notorious Al Awir jail, he writes to President Obama, who gets his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to investigate. The result is that Zack is released on bail. He leaves prison and spends two nights in a Dubai hotel, under constant surveillance.

Those two nights of ‘freedom’ are nothing of the sort and are characterised by countless frightening incidents, including him being accosted and threatened by person from Dubai State security. Frightened for his life and that of his family, the decision is made that Zack must leave Dubai, it was a matter of life and death. Desperate and frightened Zack finds a truck driver who is heading for Yemen, the driver offers to take him out of Dubai into neighbouring Yemen. The guards at the Yemeni border are clearly expecting Zack, he had been set up once more. Zack is taken from the airport to a Yemeni prison facility, the facility was being used by the CIA and FBI to interrogate Al Qaeda figures. Zack had his passport seized from him by the Dubai authorities, thankfully the US Department of State provides Zack with a replacement American passport.

Meanwhile Zack’s brother finds a British security firm who arrange for Zack to leave Yemen on a Turkish flight, bound eventually for the United Kingdom. Arriving at Sanaa airport, Zack is kidnapped at gunpoint by the Dubai state, and forced onto an Emirates plane. There was no court order, no extradition, no Interpol notice, an unlawful armed kidnap by the Dubai state of an innocent American citizen, without a court order or extradition document. One of the British security personnel is forced to board the Turkish flight that was intended for Zack. Once back in the UAE Zack is taken back to jail.

It was not until some five years after his arrest, five years of torture and inhumane and degrading treatment and arbitrary detention that judgments are entered by the courts against Zack. The Kafkaesque horror continues with a series of successful appeals and rehearings, with conviction after conviction overturned. It was not until 30 May 2015 that a conviction against Zack was issued, 1 day later another conviction saw Zack sentenced to 10 years and 15 years respectively , the judge did not take into account the 8 years already served and the prosecution annotated the judgments such that Zack would be held until he paid money that he had not taken in the first place, even on the amount of money the Dubai prosecution and courts could not decide, at first 1.1 billion AED then down to 98 million AED.

Zack appeals once more, wins the appeal, an appeal by the prosecution is then held pending until 6 June 2017, the judgments are then upheld, almost ten years after Zack was first bundled into a Dubai state security van, handcuffed, blindfolded and at gunpoint.

In both cases he was accused of forging official documents and in assisting others to Embezzle funds, yet those others were never convicted, only Zack. Even the so called “official documents” that Zack was accused of forging, could not be produced by the prosecution. Shocking, troubling, alarming, frightening, yes but this is typical for ‘justice’ in Dubai. He twice goes on hunger strike to protest at the lack of action to release him.

It may read like a movie script, but it’s not. It is Zack Shahin’s reality. Zack Shahin is still in prison. His wife and children have not seen him for nearly 14 years.

30th of May, 2015: First conviction against Zack - sentenced to 10 years and 15 years respectively – appealed

6th of June, 2017: Judgments and sentences of 10 years and 15 years upheld by Dubai court.

August 2020: Detained American COO Martin Lonergan first meets Zack Shahin in Al Awir jail.

8 September 2021: Martin Lonergan, COO, Detained International leaves the home of Zack Shahin in Houston Texas to start the 1,800 miles Walk2Justice

Today Zack still sits unjustly behind the bars of a Dubai jail, and we need your help to bring him back home.