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ABU DHABI

Sheikh reportedly detained pending torture investigation

2 min

The United Arab Emirates have reportedly detained a member of Abu Dhabi's royal family, Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, who was caught on video brutally torturing an Afghan businessman. Human Rights Watch demand a transparent trial.

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AFP - Human Rights Watch described as "reassuring" reports of the house arrest of a United Arab Emirates royal under investigation for torture allegations but said more needed to be done to restore faith in the Gulf state's justice system.

The watchdog in a statement released in New York late on Friday welcomed a report by US television network ABC that US diplomats had been told that Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, a brother of UAE president and Abu Dhabi emir Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, had also been barred from leaving the country.

"The report of the arrest was reassuring, but now the government needs to make the details public," its Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said.

"Secretive prosecutions will not deter further abuses."

She said that the video footage originally aired by ABC on April 22 which appeared to show the prince mercilessly beating a man with whips, electric cattle prods and a wooden plank with protruding nails had "shocked the world."

The victim -- who needed months of hospital care -- was reportedly an Afghan trader who lost a load of grain worth 5,000 dollars.

Other allegations of torture against the prince have since emerged.

Lawyer Anthony Buzbee, representing a former business associate of the prince who also alleges he was tortured by him, wrote to the UAE authorities on May 2 that he had "more than two hours of video footage showing Sheikh Issa's involvement in the torture of more than 25 people."

The Texas-based Buzbee acts for Texas businessman Bassam Nabulsi who smuggled out the original footage aired by ABC.

Human Rights Watch again called on the UAE government to establish an independent body with authority to inquire more broadly into the prevalence of abuse and torture by UAE police.

It also urged it to ratify the Convention against Torture.

The watchdog said that the fact that the UAE media had been reluctant to cover the case despite the huge worldwide publicity also showed the need for the government to ratify its draft media law.

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