British businessman condemned to Dubai jail cell ‘until he dies’ makes desperate plea to King Charles to intervene at COP28 summit in the United Arab Emirates
A British businessman who fears he will remain in a Dubai prison cell until the day he dies has written to King Charles pleading with him to intervene.
Ryan Cornelius made this plea ahead of the King’s opening speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 28, which is taking place this week in the United Arab Emirates – which also includes Dubai.
A United Nations investigation has already ruled that his detention is arbitrary and has called for his release.
Cornelius, who has been in office for 15 years, is backed by a cross-party group of MPs, including Conservative Iain Duncan Smith and Labor MP Chris Bryant, as well as justice campaigner Bill Browder. They have condemned his treatment as a death sentence.
King Charles will deliver the opening speech at the Cop28 climate change summit in Dubai this week
British businessman Ryan Cornelius has been in a prison cell in Dubai for fifteen years and fears he will spend the rest of his life there
Dubai Central Prison, where Mr Cornelius is being held. The United Nations has described Mr Cornelius’ detention as arbitrary and called on the UAE to release him
Charles and Camilla talk to Heikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai at Ascot in 2022
A motion earlier this year calling for the release of Mr Cornelius received support from all major political parties.
The 68-year-old businessman, father of three, was arrested during a layover at Dubai airport in 2008 and convicted of fraud in a case described by his supporters as a miscarriage of justice.
Although he has served his sentence, Mr Cornelius has been told to remain in prison until he pays back his creditor – but he cannot do so because Dubai authorities have seized his assets.
In a letter to the king, dictated from behind bars, Cornelius writes: ‘You will visit the UAE next month for the 2023 UN Climate Conference, where you will likely meet the ruler.
“He is someone who has long valued his relationship with your family, and I am sure he will listen to you.
“With my apologies once again for having the temerity to address you directly, may I ask you to intercede with the Ruler of Dubai to show leniency towards me and my family.”
Mr Cornelius’s lawyer, Rhys Davies, hopes the king’s visit will give him the opportunity to urge Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and his government to punish Mr Cornelius and all British prisoners who receive manifestly disproportionate sentences to serve, to release.
“Our king goes to the UAE and opens this important event, and yet we have British citizens languishing in prison miles away and this must end,” he said.
“The eyes of the world will be on the UAE.”
Mr. Cornelius wrote a letter to the king a month ago. So far, his team has not heard anything from either the Palace or the Foreign Office.
Mr Cornelius was a property developer in the Middle East building a luxury polo estate when he was unexpectedly arrested by plainclothes police during a stopover at Dubai airport in 2008.
Ryan, wife Heather and their children
Labor MP Chris Bryant has called for Cornelius’ release
Heather Cornelius and her children were left homeless after Dubai authorities seized her husband’s belongings
He was eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraud, accused of breaching the terms of a £372 million loan received from Dubai Islamic Bank.
When he was due to be released, UAE authorities extended his sentence behind closed doors by 20 years without trial.
Mr. Cornelius had no lawyer present, was taken to a judge’s office without notice and, his supporters say, has no further appeal.
When his assets were seized by Dubai authorities, his wife Heather and their three children were left without a home.
In his letter to the king, Mr Cornelius continues: ‘I will be 84 before I am eligible for release. But my captors tell me I will never get out alive.
‘I don’t know why they do this to me. They have already taken away everything I ever owned, I am bankrupt and my family lives in precarious rented accommodation in Britain.
‘I am currently in poor health and probably don’t have long to live.’
Conditions in Dubai Central Prison are notoriously poor and Mr Cornelius suffered from tuberculosis with no medical treatment available for him for 18 months.
Mr Davies said: ‘Prison sentences do not meet Western standards.
‘These are conditions where no medical treatment is given, the air conditioning is kept sufficiently low, they are kept in 12 degree conditions in their overcrowded prison cells, they often have only one thin blanket and the lights are left on 24/7. .
“Any suggestion from the UAE that Ryan would receive a fair trial is plainly wrong. Ryan was subjected to a very unfair trial.
“The UAE has violated fundamental international norms and its own constitution by imposing an illegal retroactive penalty. The United Nations also found that Ryan has been arbitrarily detained and called for his immediate release.
Mrs. Cornelius has spoken in the past about her fear that her husband will die in prison.
Speaking to MailOnline, she said: ‘I believe they are determined to keep my husband in prison until he dies.
‘I’m terrified that he will die behind bars and that I will never see my husband again.’
The UAE embassy did not respond when asked for comment, but previously said: ‘Ryan Cornelius illegally obtained a £372 million loan by bribing Dubai Islamic Bank staff.
Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith believes Cornelius’ treatment is unfair
The Cornelis family. Ryan thinks he may never see them again
‘After a fair trial in which all due processes were followed, Mr Cornelius was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, which was later lawfully extended for failing to repay the creditor (Dubai Islamic Bank) during that time – which is in line with Law of the UAE.
‘The whereabouts of the money Mr. Cornelius obtained is unknown.
‘The UAE legal system is independent and fair and guarantees the mandatory presence of a translator at all stages, the right to seek a lawyer at all stages, the provision of a lawyer at the expense of the state if the defendant cannot find a legal advisor appointment, and the right to appeal.
“In line with international standards, the UAE has implemented strict laws, regulations and procedures to ensure the physical and psychological well-being of detainees in its prisons.”
A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: ‘We are supporting a British man detained in the UAE and have consistently raised his case with the UAE authorities.’