French court probes torture claims against Interpol president by two Britons

French investigative judges at the Paris Tribunal have opened an investigation into torture allegations made by two British men against Interpol president Major General Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi of the United Arab Emirates.

Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmad, who had both been detained in the UAE before Mr al-Raisi was elected president of the France-based world police agency, will give evidence against him at the Specialised Judicial Unit for Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes of the Paris Tribunal, their lawyers said.

The two Britons filed a joint criminal complaint against Mr al-Raisi with the prosecutors of the Paris Tribunal in October under the principle of universal jurisdiction. In January, they filed a criminal complaint directly with the judges of the tribunal to open an investigation into claims against him.

The new Interpol president, elected for a four-year term in November, has been accused by human rights groups of involvement in torture and arbitrary detentions in the UAE. His visit sparked backlash as a lawyer for the Britons said his presence on French territory triggered the universal jurisdiction of French courts.

The accusations are a sufficient motive to lift Mr al-Raisi’s diplomatic immunity which he enjoys thanks to an agreement between the French state and Interpol, human rights lawyers have said.

The UAE has denied the allegations.

Mr Hedges was a doctoral student in the UAE when he was imprisoned for nearly seven months in 2018 on spying charges. He said he was tortured and at times held in solitary confinement with no access to a lawyer. Mr Ahmad has said he was detained and tortured by UAE security agents during the 2019 Asian Cup football tournament he had attended in the Gulf country.

He was wearing a Qatar football shirt, and at the time the two countries

According to French law, “an open investigation should lead to al-Raisi’s detention for questioning while he is next on French territory,” said the Britons’ international lawyer Rodney Dixon.

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