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France probes Emirati Interpol chief over torture claims

UAE candidate Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi elected as new Interpol chief on 25 Nov [@INTERPOL_HQ/Twitter]
UAE candidate Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi elected as new Interpol chief on 25 Nov [@INTERPOL_HQ/Twitter]

French prosecutors have opened an investigation into global police agency Interpol President, Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi over allegations that he may have been an accomplice to torture, an official said, and Reuters reports.

Raisi, a United Arab Emirates official, was appointed President of Interpol, which is headquartered in France, in November 2021 despite accusations from rights groups that he had failed to act on allegations of torture of detainees in the UAE.

An investigative judge has been appointed to look into the case and determine whether or not to indict Raisi, after a preliminary investigation began in March, an official at the office of the Paris anti-terrorism prosecutor said.

He confirmed an earlier report by news agency, AFP, that the probe was launched on the basis of universal jurisdiction, following complaints by British nationals, Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmad.

READ: Turkey requests UAE to extradite mob boss, Sedat Peker, after Interpol arrest warrant

An Interpol spokesperson said: "In relation to the allegations relating to Mr Al-Raisi, this is an issue between the parties involved and, given this is an ongoing matter, it would be premature for Interpol to comment".

Interpol added that the role of President is an unpaid and part-time post, with the President remaining a full-time official in his own country.

Raisi is Inspector General at the UAE's Ministry of the Interior. The UAE's Foreign Ministry and the federal government's media office did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Hedges, an academic at the University of Exeter, told Reuters that, in 2021, he had been held in solitary confinement for seven months in 2018 in the UAE over allegations of espionage when he went to the country to research for his doctorate.

He said he was threatened with physical violence and harm to his family by Emirati security services within a building that Raisi had responsibility for.

The UAE has said Hedges was not subjected to any physical or psychological mistreatment during his detention.

READ: Tunisian former president says Interpol did not issue 'red notice' against him

Ali Issa Ahmad told Reuters in 2021 he was detained during a holiday when he went to UAE to watch the Asian Cup in 2019 because he wore a T-shirt with a Qatar flag, at a time when there was a diplomatic row between the two countries.

He said he was electrocuted, beaten and deprived of food, water and sleep for several days during his detention.

The UAE has said any legal complaint filed with allegations against Raisi "is without merit and will be rejected".

Human Rights Watch has said hundreds of activists, academics and lawyers are serving lengthy sentences in UAE jails, often following unfair trials on vague and broad charges. The UAE has said those accusations are false and unsubstantiated.

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