• Radha Stirling

Marcus & Julie Lee´s book "Trapped" illustrates the challenges faced steering themselv


MARCUS & Julie Lee´s BOOK "TRAPPED" illustrates the challenges faced steering themselves through the labyrinth that is the UAE judicial system to ultimately prove Marcus's innocence. The issues they highlighted are incredible failings and obstacles that we continue to deal with on an ongoing basis that drastically impact countless individuals.

The UAE authorities, police, investigators and prosecutors place an nonsensical level of importance on the statements of witnesses. Often such witnesses have been coerced into providing testimony, either by conviction driven authorities or other parties with a vested interest. In Marcus´s case, false statements were produced and only after extensive efforts (unrelated to the UAE), were the statements ultimately proven to be false and withdrawn. If the team efforts did not uncover this crucial evidence, Marcus may have been sentenced to more than a decade in prison.

It is perfectly standard, albeit thoroughly inappropriate, for authorities to present statements in Arabic for the accused to sign under coercion and duress. This should be completely against the law and never admissible as evidence in court. A suspect should never have to sign any admissions or documents without being granted access or advice from their advocate. By the way, if a suspect asks for their lawyer, they will be told “no need for lawyer” and be denied access.

Bail is not automatic and the requirements can be quite stringent. Bail should always be granted except in cases where the individual poses a risk to society. Marcus Lee and colleague Matt Joyce were jailed for almost a year before finally being approved for bail. Scott Richards, another Australian national, applied for bail after being arrested for promoting a charity on social media. His bail applications were denied even though he had been resident there for nine years, posted no threat to society and was not a flight risk.

As with the case of Marcus Lee, the cash bond can be set shockingly high and the passport of a another party will need to be submitted to act as a guarantor (wife’s will not suffice). If a person does not have friends who can help, they may have to pay someone to act as guarantor. The power that the guarantor holds over the accused is evidenced by regular blackmailing episodes, essentially demanding further funds under the threat of withdrawing their passport and returning the accused to jail. A guarantor’s passport should not be a prerequisite for bail and this needs urgent UAE government review. Time and time again, innocent people are jailed without charge and without conviction for months on end, if not years. Bail should be a right to anyone who poses no risk to society. The bail should not be so unreasonable that it may not be achieved by those who have been accused of a crime but not convicted.

As Marcus & Julie explained in Trapped, the UAE legal system is inquisitorial and not adversarial. While there are some advantages to such a system, the Judges are more likely to be less impartial and are actively involved in the questioning of witnesses. In such a case, the accused must hope that the Judge explores issues that are relevant to his defence. If a Trial is lengthy, and in the UAE they usually are, there is a risk of being appointed a new Judge who has no background of the case. He may choose to review the evidence provided in the previous hearings or he may choose to open the inquisition from the very beginning. Then, what could have been a much shorter path to an acquittal, can be further drawn out.

Of course, as anyone can imagine, the language barrier is a hinderance to anyone´s defence. It is difficult enough to present a case well in your own language, but to fight for one´s freedom in a foreign language presents a whole new collection of challenges. of course it prejudices an accused person’s ability to present their evidence and statement or address the court and clarify issues.

The UAE judicial system does not compel witnesses to attend hearings where, in the UK and most developed countries, they do. If a witness chooses not to attend court (and they do), hearings can be adjourned until the witness decides to attend. This could be months, maybe even longer. All of these failings cause trials to to be in process for years. During these years, the accused person is paying a guarantor, paying lawyers (no legal aid available) and prohibited from working. Most people are left with nothing as the legal system slowly renders them broke and facing homelessness. Without money, how will they present their defence? Defence lawyers are something many afforded in the beginning and, had the trial process not been so slow, and had they been granted permission to work throughout proceedings, they would have been able to present a decent defence.

And when one’s case is finally heard, well, the outcome is unpredictable as the notion of legal precedent does not exist. Whether or not the Judge even hears the defence’s evidence is uncertain. And of course, whether one wins or loses, either the prosecution or the defence will most likely appeal because permission to appeal is automatic for all parties. The ruling will be on the whim of the Judge and one best hope he has a keen sense of justice and sound investigative instincts, without fear of the ramifications from influential bodies, without bias.

I highly recommend reading the Lee´s “Trapped”. I particularly connected with the story as I was involved at the time with aspects of the campaign and so it triggered a lot of memories for me... lobbying Australian Parliament (with Senator Kroger who received a large fruit basket from the UAE to try to entice her support) to prevent the execution of an extradition treaty with the UAE (or at least include human rights provisions), lobbying politicians regarding Marcus & Matt´s case, as well as Qantas Airlines to warn passengers of the inherent dangers of Dubai.

It is an excellent resource for people who are experiencing the system now, who wish to understand it further or have an interest in the UAE generally. Not only is it enjoyable to read but there are also a lot of interesting insights and information in relation to UAE economics, property development, Nakheel, Sunland (an Australian PLC), Dubai Waterfront and the UAE legal and penal system.

Facebook: Marcus & Julie Lee, who were held in Dubai for 5 years

Marcus Lee Website: http://www.marcuslee.com.au/

ABC Feature Two Part Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnAZQuM5rfc

#UAELawDubaiJailTrappedNakheelSunlandDub

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