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US officials react to a 2004 videotape showing a man being tortured by the son of a former UAE president, as the countries discuss a key nuclear deal.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The Abu Dhabi government, a staunch U.S. ally, has reversed course and announced that it will launch a “comprehensive review” of the videotaped torture of an Afghan businessman — purportedly inflicted by a member of its ruling family.
The videotape, aired by ABC Television April 22, shows the Afghan, Mohammed Shah Poor, being beaten with a nail-studded wood plank, having his genitals set on fire, his anus pierced by a cattle prod and then repeatedly run over by an SUV.
ABC identified the alleged perpetrator, assisted by someone wearing what appears to be a policeman’s uniform, as Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan.
Sheikh Issa is the son of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, late president of the United Arab Emirates, a Gulf Arab nation comprised of seven semi-autonomous emirates, including Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Issa’s brothers include current UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who also rules Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy commander of UAE’s armed forces.
Sheikh Issa, a businessman, holds no government position.
According to press reports, he was angered that Poor had allegedly short-changed him in a $5,000 grain deal. During the 2004 assault, he also tormented Poor by stuffing sand in his mouth and pouring salt into his wounds, the video shows.
In its initial response to ABC’s broadcast of the video, UAE’s Interior Ministry acknowledged that Sheikh Issa is the man seen assaulting Poor. But it said the assault was investigated and that the two sides settled the matter “privately,” with the police following “all rules, policies and procedures.”
Poor reportedly survived the torture, but spent months in the hospital recovering from severe internal injuries, according to media reports.
New York-based Human Rights Watch early this week called on the UAE to do more, urging it to set up an independent body to investigate the torture and “the Ministry of Interior’s failure to bring those involved to justice,” according to the group’s website.
Its Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, called the government’s response to the assault “an appalling miscarriage of justice."
On April 29, the Human Rights Office of Abu Dhabi’s Judicial Department issued a statement saying that the Abu Dhabi government “unequivocally condemns” the video’s “graphic scenes of physical abuse.”