Wednesday 11 December 2019

Tourist who 'urgently' needs cancer treatment jailed in Dubai for carrying anti-depressants

Perry Coppins is being held in Dubai and denied prostate cancer treatment
Perry Coppins is being held in Dubai and denied prostate cancer treatment

A British man in urgent need of cancer treatment has spent five weeks in a Dubai jail after he was arrested for carrying anti-depressants, his lawyers have said.

Perry Coppins, 61, was detained at Fujairah seaport last month despite having prescriptions for the drugs, which are legal in United Arab Emirates (UAE.)

The maritime security officer from Nottingham has been treated for anxiety for 21 years and was travelling with enough medication for a six-month journey at sea, according to Detained in Dubai, a campaign group which has taken up his case.

The not-for-profit legal organisation said that since his arrest, Mr Coppins had been denied temazepam, clonazepam and citalopram, which were all prescribed by a GP.

His “psychological condition [had] deteriorated rapidly” and he had suffered “severe withdrawal” symptoms including hallucinations, weight loss, “intense pain, bouts of blindness and uncontrollable sweating”, it said.

The father-of-three has also been diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer which the UAE was “refusing to give him treatment” for, Detained in Dubai added.

“Perry needs urgent treatment for his prostate cancer," said Radha Stirling, the organisation’s chief executive.

"To deny him this in a timely fashion is a gross violation of his human rights. We hope that the UAE will show compassion to Perry and his children, and release him immediately, so that he can return home for the medical treatment he needs.”

Calling for his release, Mr Coppins’ family  said denying him cancer treatment was “like giving him a death sentence”.

He has two daughters, Pia, 24, and Mia, 10, and a 21-year-old son, Cameron, in the UK.

"It’s so cruel. Nobody should be treated like this. He is not a young man and he needs medical help to cope with his anxiety," said Pia. “Not being allowed his cancer treatment is like giving him a death sentence. Does human life mean nothing to those people?”

Mr Coppins’ ex-wife Lesley added: “Perry and I spilt up, but he is a good man who loves his kids. I really hope the Dubai authorities decide to do the humane thing and let him free. Those medicines are taken by millions of people. He needs them to function.”

Ms Stirling said she believed Mr Coppins was stopped by an “overzealous” customers official, who rejected his prescription paperwork and called in police.

She added: “UAE laws on medicines are often vague and frontline law enforcement officials are frequently unaware of exactly what the rules permit or prohibit, so they make uneducated and arbitrary judgment calls.

“In fact the three medications which Perry possessed are perfectly legal in the UAE, provided the patient has prescription documentation, which Perry has.

"The initial mistake of the customs officer should never have escalated into criminal charges, but this reveals the lack of professionalism within the legal system, and what appears to be the capriciousness of the Public Prosecutor’s office.”

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “We have been assisting a British man since his arrest in Dubai in November and are in contact with the UAE authorities.”

The Independent has contacted the Dubai Public Prosecutor’s office for comment, but none had arrived at the time of publication.

Mr Coppins' arrest is the latest in a string of cases in which Britons have been detained in emirate, often over disputed accusations of minor crimes.

In October, Detained in Dubai helped to secure the release of Scottish 27-year-old, Jamie Harron, who had faced three months behind bars for accidentally touching a man's hip in a bar.

The cases have led campaigners to urge the UK government to warn people about the legal risks of travelling to the UAE.

Independent News Service

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