By Roland Sebestyén
While the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has just announced changes to one of the strictest drug policies in the world, campaigners are still fighting for the release of a 25-year-old man was jailed earlier this year for possession of CBD vape oil.
Billy Hood, 25, of West London was arrested and later sentenced to 25 years in prison in Dubai after police found CBD oil vape cartridges in his car earlier this year.
His appeal eventually succeeded, and his sentence was reduced to 10 years, however, the recent announcement of an easing of drug laws in the UAE has left campaigners and the family of Mr Hood with more questions.
Radha Stirling, CEO at Detained in Dubai, an activist group that offers legal assistance for foreign nationals arrested in the Emirates, told the Daily Mail: “There was no evidence whatsoever of trafficking and none of the selling. Dubai’s overzealous prosecution has ruined this young man’s life and put him and his family through hell.
“[The police were] forcing [Mr Hood] to confess with promises of his imminent release.
“They turned what would have been a small possession case at worst into a federal case that has seen him locked up for almost a year and facing a life sentence in Abu Dhabi.
“He was given both a carrot and a stick, so some prosecutor could get his dues. It’s all too familiar a story.”
Mr Hood was charged with the possession, sale, and trafficking of an illegal drug. He claimed that he was forced to sign a fake confession written in Arabic that he couldn’t understand.
Mr Hood was reportedly beaten, slapped and threatened with a taser to sign the document.
Alfie Cain, Mr Hood’s best friend, said: “Billy said they told him he could go home if he signed the paper, that’s why he gave in and signed that piece of paper in Arabic he had no idea what he signing, but he just wanted to make it stop.”
Ms Sterling accused the UAE of forming a “manufactured case” against Mr Hood, but the country’s Public Prosecution has denied the accusation.
In a statement, they claimed: “Mr Hood was found to be in possession of quantities of synthetic cannabis oil.
“The Police search of Mr Hood’s vehicle found the cannabis oil, substantial amounts of cash, an electronic hookah, various storage bottles and boxes, and 570 individual cartridges to be used for substance vaping.
“Mr Hood was convicted based on evidence including the items found in his possession, information on his phone, third party statement, and his own confession.”
Although the UAE has just eased its drug policy, which states that foreigners caught with an illegal substance in the country could now be deported instead of facing jail time, Mr Hood won’t be freed.
The new laws will only come into effect in January 2022.