Fiance of U.S. citizen detained in UAE fears he will be extradited to Egypt

DUBAI, Dec 4 (Reuters) – An Egyptian-American national detained during a visit to the United Arab Emirates fears extradition to Egypt for criticizing the country’s authorities before the country hosted the conference on the COP27 climate last month, her fiancé said on Sunday.

The United Arab Emirates, a close ally of Egypt, arrested Sherif Osman, who resides in the United States, on November 6 at the request of an Arab League entity responsible for coordinating law enforcement and security issues, a UAE official confirmed to Reuters on Thursday.

The official said Emirati authorities were working to obtain “the legal documentation required to prepare the extradition case”, without specifying to which country or whether a specific extradition request had been made.

Osman’s fiancée, Saija Virta, said he was detained outside a restaurant in Dubai, where she was with him, and was told by the prosecution that Egypt had requested his detention for, among other things, ” spoken negatively against government institutions”.

Egyptian authorities released no statement on the case, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, and did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The United States was aware of Osman’s arrest in Dubai, a US State Department spokesperson said Thursday, and was “monitoring his case closely and providing appropriate consular support.”

Osman had posted a video on YouTube on October 31 criticizing Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and calling for peaceful protests in Egypt on November 11, when US President Joe Biden was attending the COP27 conference in Sharm el-Sheikh.

“He (Osman) tells me he is being treated well… (but) we are all very shocked and traumatised,” Virta, who is Finnish-American, told Reuters, saying she spoke to him on Sunday.

“I would like to ask for diplomatic intervention because…I don’t think he would get a fair trial in Egypt,” she said.

Osman’s fiancée said she traveled to the United Arab Emirates with him to meet his sister, who lives in Dubai, and his mother who had planned to come from Egypt.

Virta, who left Dubai on Nov. 16 to return to work in the United States, said Osman was only able to sign a power of attorney on Wednesday for a lawyer to access his case.

The UAE official had said the UAE “strictly adheres to all internationally accepted standards” in detention cases, including regular consular access and legal counsel.

Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous and Aidan Lewis; Editing by Susan Fenton

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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