Two U.S. citizens have been freed from a prison in the United Arab Emirates following their acquittal this week on charges that they supported militants fighting in Libya, their family said Friday.
Kamal Eldarat, 59, was released late Thursday, according to his daughter, Amal Eldarat. His son, Mohamed, 34, was released Tuesday, she said.
The two men were detained for 21 months following a 2014 security sweep that rounded up almost a dozen Libyans and men of Libyan heritage living in the UAE.
Initially held incommunicado, the Eldarats went on trial in January on charges of supporting terrorists in Libya during the 2011 Arab Spring rebellion against dictator Moammar Gaddafi. The terrorism charges eventually were dropped, but they still faced charges of providing supplies to armed groups in Libya and raising donations without government permission.
The Eldarats and two others — a Libyan Canadian and a Libyan resident of the UAE — were acquitted Monday, though they were led from the courtroom in handcuffs and returned to prison while their releases were finalized. Salim Alaradi, the Canadian citizen, was released Tuesday and has already flown out of the country to be reunited with his family.
In a telephone interview from the UAE, Mohamed Eldarat said he and his father must retrieve their U.S. passports from UAE authorities and get medical attention for ailments that developed or worsened during their lengthy detention. Family members and human rights groups said the Eldarats were tortured, enduring beatings, waterboarding and sleep deprivation. UAE officials denied the allegations and said the defendants had been provided due process.
Before determining their plans, the Eldarats also must look into their business affairs, Eldarat said. His father was a successful real estate developer in the UAE, and the son ran a chain of Subway sandwich shops.
But Mohammad Eldarat said his first meal after he regained freedom was the most American food he could think of – a Big Mac and McDonald’s.
“I’m so grateful for everything the U.S. government has done,” he said. “They faced a lot of roadblocks, but the fact they were there gave us a lot of emotional support.”
The Eldarats are Libyan Americans who sought asylum in the United States during Gaddafi’s reign. The family has lived in the UAE for two decades but retained U.S. citizenship.
The case put a strain on relations between Washington and Abu Dhabi. The State Department sent consular officials to attend the court proceedings, and U.S. officials pressed the UAE government to release the men.