Photo courtesy of Alaradi family
A Canadian-Libyan citizen held in the UAE for 642 days and allegedly tortured has been acquitted on charges of supporting Libya's national transition council after the Arab Spring.Canadian officials said in a statement they welcomed Salim Alaradi's acquittal, and his family is celebrating the news. But he isn't free yet.When Alaradi and his three Libyan co-accused heard the news Monday, they cheered and hugged each other in the courtroom, his lawyer Paul Champ told VICE News.
But the celebration was short lived. Almost immediately Alaradi and his co-accused, Libyans Essa Manaa, Mohammed El Darrat and Kamal El Darrat, were detained again by UAE officials. It's unclear whether they were detained for short-term administrative reasons or not, but the four men will not be released today, Champ said.Canadian officials were on hand to bring the businessman and father of five back to Canada, and were equally confused when he was arrested again following the acquittal, Champ said.
"The Government of Canada raised Mr. Alaradi's case at the highest levels and called for his release and return to Canada," Global Affairs Canada said in a release Monday.On a previous court appearance, Alaradi and the three other Libyans showed the judge injuries they alleged were due to torture by UAE officials. Some of the scars on Alaradi's body are two inches in diameter, his lawyer said. He was allegedly punched, hung upside down, and beaten with batons.Global Affairs has previously said they take allegations of torture "extremely seriously," but have remained relatively quiet on Alaradi's case."We are moved by the resiliency shown by Mr. Alaradi's family, in particular, their courage and conviction," the Monday statement from Global Affairs said.Alaradi's teenage daughter, Marwa, who has advocated publicly for his release since he was arrested, was elated when she spoke to VICE News over the phone Monday.
"It's the best news ever, it was amazing," she said. "But unfortunately my father was returned back to prison We expected my father to leave the courtroom with Canadian officials as a free man.""I don't think he should be in prison because he is innocent," she continued."It's has been the toughest two years, almost two years, of our life," she said when asked how her family has dealt with her father's case.The acquittal comes after a long ordeal for Alaradi.On August 28, 2014, while he was vacationing with family in Dubai, security called Alaradi's hotel room from the reception desk and asked him to come downstairs.That's the last time his teenage daughter saw him.His mysterious arrest was part of a sweep by the UAE that saw a group of Libyan nationals arrested around the same time.
'It's has been the toughest two years, almost two years, of our life.'
His brother, who was also detained but later released, said they were held at a military base where they were interrogated about Libyan political affiliations and allegedly beaten. Alaradi was then transferred to a prison.It was only in January of this year that the UAE formally charged Alaradi with terrorism for allegedly supporting terrorist organizations. The terror charges were later dropped.Champ said Alaradi admitted to providing assistance, including food and medicine but not money, to the National Transition Council of Libya following the revolution in 2011 — a government the UAE has not recognized as legitimate. Alaradi's brother, Abdelrazag Alaradi, was appointed to the transitional council.
Champ credited pressure from Canadian, US, and United Nations officials for what he called "a fair trial."
Champ, who has worked with clients who have experienced torture, said he expected Alaradi's mental health to recover more slowly than his physical health."It will take time for him to be the Salim he used to be, but we'll make sure he returns to the old Salim by taking care of his health," his daughter said.When he is released, his family and consular officials have made arrangements for him to fly to Istanbul for "urgent" medical treatment. There, he will be reunited with his family, Champ said.Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter: @hilarybeaumont