Muslim father-of-three stuck in Saudi jail after Umrah altercation

Kausar Uddin [Photo: Ian Rutherford]

A father of three from Edinburgh has been left in prison after being beaten by Saudi police due to a misunderstanding during Umrah.

Kausar Uddin, 47, from Edinburgh, travelled to Makkah last month with his wife, three children and a group from Blackhall Mosque to take part in Umrah.

But during the Isha prayer on Monday 22 February, Mr Uddin was caught up in the crowd congestion around the holy Kabah.

Family and eyewitnesses say Mr Uddin, tripped and reached out to grab the nearest person in order to steady himself, which happened to be a police officer.

Not understanding what had happened, the officer began beating Mr Uddin with a baton. As the father-of-three raised his hands to defend himself, a swarm of police officers arrived at the scene “within seconds”, dragged him off, and allegedly beat him up afterwards.

His family told Edinburgh News that he was taken to hospital and later to a local police station, before being moved to a nearby prison. During the ordeal, his passport was seized.

Stuck in Saudi Arabia, his wife Alaya and three children Kaulsom, 17, Al-Ebrahim, 17, and Al-Esmail, eight, found themselves unable to contact Mr Uddin to secure his release.

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As days passed and their desperation increased, Alaya contacted family friend Rizwan Raza back in Edinburgh to tell him what had happened.

Mr Raza, an accountant from Craiglockhart, immediately got on the phone to the Foreign Office and local MP Joanna Cherry in an attempt to get help.

Helpless and alone, Mr Uddin’s family were advised by the Foreign Office and British Embassy to fly home on Sunday, February 28, before their visas expired.

With the help of a friend of a friend who spoke Arabic, they were able to see Mr Uddin in prison for just five minutes that night before travelling to the airport to board a plane back to Scotland.

Three weeks ago, Mr Uddin was able to make two phone calls home to his wife and children from jail – allegedly by bribing guards.

His frightened calls revealed things were not improving. He had been put on trial on Monday 29 February, without proper legal representation and sentenced to 35 days in prison for assaulting a policeman – despite the officer in question retracting the charge.

Blackhall Mosque in Edinburgh said they had “serious reservations” about his treatment and imprisonment.

A statement released through a lawyer said: “Those who were responsible for organising the trip to Mecca were actively involved in trying to resolve matters to the best of their ability whilst in Saudi Arabia but with no avail.

“Clearly, it will be appreciated that the Criminal Justice System and its implementation is solely a matter for the authorities in Saudi Arabia.

“Notwithstanding the great efforts made by individuals from the Blackhall Mosque in Edinburgh who were on the trip the authorities decided to prosecute Mr Uddin.

“The Blackhall Mosque has been in contact with Mr Uddin’s family on a daily basis since the incident occurred.

“Mr Uddin is a family man with young children and our thoughts are with them during this difficult and traumatic period in their lives. We remain to assist and support them throughout this period.

“We join Mr Uddin’s family and appeal directly to the Government and to the Foreign Office to ensure that everything is being done to secure Mr Uddin’s liberty and safe return to Scotland.”

A Foreign Office spokeswoman declined to go into the details of the Mr Uddin’ case, but told Edinburg News: “Our staff are providing assistance to a British national in Saudi Arabia following their arrest in February.

“We will remain in contact with their family and local authorities.”

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