Bouncing behind bars

Another Briton has been thrown in jail in Dubai for what looks like a simple case of a bounced cheque or two, albeit rather large ones worth around £50m. Not the sort of thing that usually gets you a prison sentence in the UK, but every expat I’ve ever met there is well aware of the dangers of bad cheques bouncing you into jail. Safi Qurashi had bought the island of Britain in over-the-top World development, designed when hubris in Dubai was at its height. He joins at least 16 other UK nationals in the UAE prison system. These days the country has almost as many Britons behind bars as the rest of the Middle East combined according to Prisoners Abroad.

The UAE is pretty happy to lock people up – it has 238 people in jail for every 100,000 people – not as bad as the US (748), but much worse than Egypt (89), Saudi Arabia (178), Libya (200) or Iran (223). Among Middle East countries, it only lags behind Tunisia (263) and Israel (325).

Mind you that’s nothing compared to the number of Middle Eastern nationals in jail in the UK - over a thousand at the last count.

The numbers might be skewed slightly by people convicted abroad returning to serve out their sentence at home.

For all the recent hoopla over the 2008 prisoner transfer agreement between the UK and Libya, it still hasn’t been ratified. Convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, whose case looks shaky anyway, was released from custody rather than transferred to a Libyan jail.

The UK has at least 18 similar bilateral deals, including one with Egypt which was signed in 1993 and entered into force in 2005, and another with Morocco dating back to 2002 which is still not yet in force.

Via the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, a Council of Europe agreement, it has agreements with 63 other countries, including Israel.

For a breakdown of how many Middle Eastern nationals the UK locks up, and how many Brits are jailed in those countries in return click here: Prisoner Exchange.

And for a taste of how nasty UAE prisons can be click here.