Daughters mount embassy protest to free their father from Dubai prison

British millionaire serving seven-year sentence is victim of miscarriage of justice, family say

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The Independent Online

The young daughters of a millionaire British businessman jailed in Dubai over a bounced cheque have launched a protest demanding his release outside the UAE embassy in London.

Safi Qurashi, from south London, who paid $60m for the UK "island" in Dubai's $14bn World development, was given a seven-year jail sentence in February last year for bouncing cheques.

His business partner and accountant were also jailed for what is considered a severe crime in Dubai.

Mr Qurashi, who showed off his plans for the 4.5 hectare island on a Piers Morgan-hosted TV programme, had hoped for an early release last Tuesday.

In a report written by Tarique Ghaffur, a former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, earlier this year, Mr Qurashi and his colleagues were said to be victims of a miscarriage of justice.

Investigations have revealed that the value of two of the cheques, related to a land deal with a Russian tycoon, had in fact been paid. The third, which involved the World islands of Iraq and Moscow, was shown to have been cancelled rather than bounced. Nevertheless, a judge in Dubai's Court of First Instance upheld the sentence. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office is now looking into the case and William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, is being kept abreast of developments.

Mr Qurashi's children, 13-year-old Sara and Maaria, 10, started their protest yesterday accompanied by a dozen family members. Within minutes of their arrival, the UAE embassy called the police, although the protest was allowed to continue.

Sara, who established the website justiceformydad.com last year, said: "My dad was worried about us coming over [to Britain], but he has supported me a lot. He told us that soon this will all be over."

The children will be outside the embassy, with their many placards and a book crammed with names of members of the public supporting their campaign, from 9am to 4pm for 30 days. They will then return to school in Dubai.

The family have requested a meeting with Alistair Burt, the Foreign Office minister. He is expected to reply next week.

If Mr Burt does meet them, the family will ask for the British government to arrange for them to talk directly to the ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, from whom they will seek a pardon for Mr Qurashi.