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Canadian Detained in UAE for 17 Months Could Face Terror Charges

“These are hallmarks of a trial process that is definitely tilted in favor of the state, and for obvious reasons Mr. Alaradi’s family is deeply concerned,” Paul Champ, his lawyer, said.
Photo courtesy of Alaradi family

A Canadian-Libyan citizen detained in the United Arab Emirates for almost 17 months is now facing charges, but his supporters worry he won't get a fair trial.

Salim Alaradi's lawyer Paul Champ told VICE News his client will appear before a judge on January 18, but he won't know what he's charged with until the court appearance.

Champ said Alaradi could face national security or anti-terrorism charges due to the court he is scheduled to appear in: the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court.


"Frankly it's really difficult to speculate on what those charges might be," Champ said. "Mr. Alaradi hasn't led a life that could cast any suspicion on him. He's been a hardworking businessman and parent to several young children, and he isn't mixed up in anything that could be remotely connected to terrorism. So we just have to wait until the first court appearance to find out what they're going to charge him with."

The prosecution is expected to begin its case that day, and to make matters worse for Alaradi, there is no right of appeal and the court is closed to the public, Champ said.

"These are hallmarks of a trial process that is definitely tilted in favor of the state, and for obvious reasons Mr. Alaradi's family is deeply concerned," he said.

Champ said he has reason to believe Alaradi was tortured in custody and that Canadian consular officials knew of the torture.

Global Affairs Canada, the country's foreign affairs ministry, said it takes allegations of torture extremely seriously, but would not comment on whether it was aware of allegations that Alaradi had been tortured.

Alaradi's case has attracted an increasing amount of attention since his teenage daughter, Marwa, first spoke out last June.

So far, his story is shrouded in mystery.

Related: Canadian Teenager Pleads for Release of Father Detained in UAE

On August 28, 2014, Alaradi and his family were on vacation in Abu Dhabi. Around midnight, an officer from the security service called their hotel room from the reception desk and asked Alaradi to come down to the lobby for a few minutes to answer some questions.


Believing something was amiss, his wife insisted on going downstairs with him.

"That was the last time we ever saw him," Marwa, who was there that night, told VICE News.

The same day, UAE authorities also arrested Alaradi's brother, Mohamed. He was later released.

According to Amnesty International, around the same time that UAE officials arrested Salim and Mohamed, they arrested a group of other Libyan nationals and dual-nationals.

The only connection between them, Champ said, is that they all have family connections to Libya.

Reuters reported the UAE arrested 10 Libyan citizens and six Emirates in August and September. The wire service cited an anonymous source who said, "These individuals have been detained in relation to financing extremism and terrorism and facilitating the transfer of fighting equipment."

Mohamed told his family that he and Salim were initially held together in a military base where they could hear air traffic. Mohamed said he was interrogated about his alleged affiliation with Libyan politicians.

During the Libyan revolution, Alaradi supported the uprising from afar, but was not directly involved, his family said. However, his brother, Abdelrazag Alaradi, was appointed to the National Transitional Council, which was created to form a democratic government in the country.

Despite his brother's political ties, the family says Salim has no political affiliations with the Libyan government.


In a release Thursday, his family said Alaradi's detention for nearly 17 months without charge or trial "constitutes arbitrary detention at international law."

Urgent News: My father is going to be charged by the — Free Salim Alaradi (@freesalimaradi)January 14, 2016

Since late September, the Canadian government began taking a more active role in Alaradi's case. Canadian officials have told his family he had been transferred to Al Wathba prison.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stephane Dion, who was appointed in November, "is seized of the seriousness of Mr. Alaradi's case and is engaged in efforts to ensure a prompt and just resolution," department spokesperson Rachna Mishra said.

Alaradi's daughter Marwa sounded more upbeat than usual over the phone Thursday.

"Obviously it's better," she said. "My father has lawyers now and the Canadians can go and see my father."

Canadian consular officials have been visiting Alaradi on a weekly basis, and he's able to talk on the phone. "We can finally hear his voice again," Marwa said.

She told VICE News she was happy to hear her father would finally have his day in court, though her family is worried about the lack of an appeals process. She worried the deck would be stacked against him in court.

"We need our father to come back home to us, but we also need justice," she said. "We know that my father has done nothing wrong."

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter: @hilarybeaumont