Foreign Office has sold me out, says Briton jailed in Dubai

Hunger striker claims that UK's trade ties with the emirate are being put before his freedom
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The Independent Online

The British businessman jailed for seven years in Dubai over bounced cheques has blasted the Foreign Office as "useless", claiming it will not help him because of UK trade links with the rich emirate.

Several independent reports have found that Safi Qurashi – who once appeared on television with Piers Morgan after buying the "Britain" island in the $14bn (£9bn) World development off the Dubai coast – is almost certainly innocent of his charges.

Mr Qurashi became something of a property tycoon as the emirate boomed in the pre-crash years, but has seen his fortune virtually wiped out by his imprisonment.

Writing cheques that bounce through lack of funds is a severe crime in Dubai. But subsequent to his incarceration two and a half years ago Mr Qurashi was shown to have either stopped or paid in full the three multimillion-pound cheques that he is accused of failing to honour.

He recently went on a 50-day hunger strike, losing 33lb, and only stopped when his teenage daughter threatened to follow suit as part of a renewed protest outside the UAE embassy in London.

Speaking to The Independent by telephone from the Dubai Central Prison, Mr Qurashi said one of the three cases, a £31m cheque related to a waterfront development involving a Russian businessman, would now be reviewed at the emirate's Supreme Court later this month.

Due to the opaque nature of the appeal process – previous hearings have lasted just minutes – Mr Qurashi has asked the Foreign Office for help on how to prepare his case, but it has refused. This follows a number of instances where the Foreign Office has said it could not get involved in the circumstances surrounding his imprisonment.

He said: "The Foreign Office is absolutely useless – you wouldn't be able to print the words I really want to use. If this were a different country, one which was not such a significant trade partner, one which was not too close with our Royal Family, they would [get involved] – that's the feeling of every single Brit locked up in here. The standard answer is that they can't get involved in the legal process. Fine, but I need advice from them about how I can get involved in the legal process – that's very different."

Mr Qurashi believes that under UAE law he has the right to be released on bail as his case is under review, but has struggled to find significant legal opinion that supports or opposes this view. The Foreign Office said last night the British embassy had offered Mr Qurashi advice on obtaining local legal assistance to pursue his case.