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Canadian Teenager Pleads for Release of Father Detained in UAE

Salim Alaradi, who holds dual Libyan and Canadian citizenship, was swept up by UAE authorities last year, among other individuals. He has been detained for more than 280 days without charge and has been tortured, his family alleges.
Photo provided by Alaradi family

The 17-year-old daughter of a Canadian citizen detained in the United Arab Emirates without charge was in Ottawa Tuesday asking members of parliament to advocate for his release.

Marwa Alaradi says her dad, Salim Alaradi, who was born in Libya and holds dual Libyan and Canadian citizenship, has been detained for more than 280 days and has been tortured.

Fed up with waiting for his release, the teenager, who lives in Windsor, Ontario with her family, created a blog, started a petition and recorded a YouTube video to tell her story.

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The last time she saw her father was in a hotel room when her family was vacationing in Dubai. Her dad and uncle ran a home appliance business in the UAE.

Around midnight on August 28, 2014 she says someone from the security service called their room from the reception desk and asked her father to come downstairs for a few minutes to answer some questions.

Her mom insisted on going down to the lobby with him because she felt something was wrong.

"That was the last time we ever saw him," Marwa Alaradi told VICE News. "They took him and they never told us the reason why."

About 10 days before that, her uncle Mohamed Alaradi had been questioned by security officers and then released.

"He told us they were tortured and regularly interrogated without them telling them why they were here," said Marwa. "They never told them the reason why. They released my uncle and they never told him why they took him."

Officers arrested Mohamed the same day they arrested Salim, and held the brothers together, Marwa said.

Mohamed told her family they were initially held in a military base where they could hear heavy air traffic. He told the family they were interrogated for 24 hours at a time, made to stand in stress positions and beaten. They were asked questions about affiliations to Libyan politicians, Mohamed said.

"They interrogated him regularly and they basically asked questions about politics, but they were never involved in politics, they just focused on their business," Marwa said.

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After four months, the UAE released Mohamed but continued to hold Salim. Around that time, Marwa's mother was allowed to visit Salim in prison.

"When my mom went to visit my father, they were supervised, they weren't alone, someone was standing there," Marwa told VICE News. "And my mom noticed a burn mark on my father's hand."

Marwa said her mom asked him what it was from and he said it was from the laundry. Her mother said he appeared to have lost weight.

Marwa's family is in touch with the Canadian authorities, who are giving them regular updates on Salim's well being.

But the big mystery is why the UAE continues to hold Salim without charging him.

Marwa's family says he has no direct political affiliations.

Salim supported the Libyan revolution "like millions of Libyans," according to Marwa's blog.

"He supported opposition groups that toppled Colonel Mu'ammer al-Gaddafi. The world was in support of the revolution."

According to the family's website, Salim wasn't in Libya during the revolution and did not actively participate in the process, although one of his brothers, Abdelrazag Alaradi, was politically active in the revolution and was appointed to the National Transitional Council, which helped Libya transition to a democratically elected government.

Related: Former Inmates at Bahrain's Jaw Prison Describe Being Tortured and Teargassed

Around the same time Marwa's father and uncle were detained, the UAE swept up eight other Libyans between August and September 2014, according to Amnesty International.

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In October, Reuters reported 10 Libyan citizens, including Mohamed and Salim Alaradi, and six Emirates were arrested between August and September. Reuters cited an anonymous source who said "the individuals were being held in connection with financing terrorism and facilitating arms shipments to militants."

Tensions have ramped up between the UAE and Libya since the Libyan revolution. In November, the UAE listed the Muslim Brotherhood — a group that has gained political strength in Libya since 2012 — and local affiliates inside the UAE as terrorist groups. Reuters reported UAE officials also locked up Islamists who formed a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, Canada's ties with the UAE are becoming increasingly cozy in an effort to boost trade.

Amnesty International researcher Drewery Dyke told VICE News he had interviewed another Libyan who said UAE officials detained and tortured him before releasing him. Dyke told VICE News the name of the detainee, but did not want him named publicly because the man's family are still in the UAE and could be in danger.

In that case, Dyke said the man told him he'd been blindfolded and taken to what "seemed to be an air base" where he was held for 21 days. Then he said he was moved somewhere else where he was interrogated about a political movement in Libya.

Dyke said one line of questioning, according to the Libyan detainee, was about al-Islah, a group that's affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

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The Libyan detainee told the Amnesty researcher he was punched and beaten. "Many parts of his body were blue from bruising," Dyke said, recounting what the anonymous detainee told him.

"Salim Alaradi is not alone — a large number of people have been tortured [in the UAE]," Dyke said. "There is a much much wider pattern of repression that's going on in the UAE. …Salim's family are microcosms of it all."

Dyke said he hasn't been in touch with UAE officials.

VICE News sent emails to UAE officials, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that bounced back. The emails that didn't bounce went unanswered. Repeated calls to the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs during office hours went unanswered. The Canadian embassy in Abu Dhabi did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

François Lasalle, an Ottawa-based spokesperson for the Canadian government, confirmed to VICE News that Salim is being detained in the UAE, and that consular officials are in touch with both his family and officials in the UAE. The Canadian government would not provide further details and would not comment on the allegations of torture by Salim's family, citing privacy concerns.

Marwa said the Canadian embassy told the family Salim had been transferred to the Al Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi.

"The Canadian embassy stood with us since the beginning," Marwa said. "Whenever they had updates about my father they would directly call us and tell us."

She hopes that speaking to media and members of parliament will put pressure on the UAE to release her father.

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter: @hilarybeaumont