A gay Briton is battling extradition to the United Arab Emirates, where homosexuality is illegal, over concerns he may not receive a fair trial for an alleged theft charge.
Michael Halliday, from the Midlands, who is accused of stealing money from a department store in Dubai, says he could be punished unreasonably if made to face trial in the Arab country due to his sexuality.
The court heard there has been 43 complaints of torture and mistreatment of British nationals in UAE prisons in the last five years.
The 32-year-old told The Guardian: “I’m extremely worried. If I was sent back I don’t believe I could defend myself in court or have a fair trial. The fact that I’m openly gay would mean that there would be prejudice against me.
“If I was found guilty then I’m worried they would add on extra charges and increase my sentence.”
An independent expert sent to Dubai by Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), acting as a legal agent for the UAE in the case, was refused access to inspect prison conditions, according to Mr Halliday's lawyers, the Guardian reports.
Gay sex is punishable by death under Article 354 of the UAE’s Federal Penal Code.
In Dubai, under Article 177 of the country's Penal Code, “consensual sodomy” can lead to imprisonment for up to 10 years.
The UAE requested Mr Halliday’s extradition in June last year. He is accused of stealing money from a safe in a department store where he worked as an operations manager.
Mr Halliday denies the charges, claiming CCTV footage supports his case and two witness statements from employees who had given evidence against him contain factual errors.
According to court documents, Mr Halliday’s sexuality is “well known” to authorities in Dubai and his former colleagues.
Ben Cooper, Mr Halliday’s barrister, told the Guardian he doubted whether his client would be able to receive a fair trial in the Arabian Peninsula.
The UAE has frequently been criticised over its human rights record.
Ahmed Mansoor, 46-year-old activist and recipient of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders for his struggle to draw attention to abuses in the Gulf state, said earlier this year: “If people think of the UAE and other states in the Gulf at all, they don’t think about human rights. They think about oil, or wealth or the world’s tallest building; they think that the UAE is an open society.
“There is a very systematic process to crush free speech and freedom of assembly.
“Human rights are being violated on a daily basis and nobody in the outside world seems to care.”
Mr Halliday's case against extradition is due to be decided at Westminster magistrate's court this week.