Published July 05, 2012
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – American businessman Zack Shahin has ended his seven-week hunger strike in Dubai after authorities agreed to set bail for his release, his lawyer said Thursday, a case that has caused a rare blip in relations with the U.S.
Shahin started going without food since May 14 in an effort to get authorities in the city-state to hear his case.
U.S.-based attorney Eric Akers said his client told him he started eating again Thursday. Shahin agreed to end his hunger strike after a judge set conditions Wednesday for his pretrial release on bail, according to the lawyer.
"He sounded very upbeat, and he's very positive," Akers said by phone. "His mental state is good. It was the physical state that really caused some alarm."
The protest drew the attention of U.S. officials, whose public calls for action risked a diplomatic spat with the UAE, a key American ally in the Gulf.
The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi confirmed that Shahin must pay a bail of 5 million dirhams ($1.4 million) as one of the conditions for his release.
Akers cited a similar amount, which he said was being wired from the U.S. on Thursday morning. Shahin and his family are putting up the funds, he said.
In addition to the bail, Shahin and a guarantor must each surrender their passports before he is let out of jail, Akers said. That is to ensure he does not flee the country while awaiting trial in multiple cases against him.
Dubai officials did not respond to a request for comment about the case Thursday.
Shahin is a former CEO of Dubai-based Deyaar Realty. He was arrested in 2008 as part of an investigation into alleged embezzlement, and he was later targeted in other investigations involving alleged fiscal improprieties at the company. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The Lebanon-born Shahin, who was raised in Ohio, was one of dozens of businesspeople under investigation for alleged financial irregularities in the UAE as it boomed into an international business hub in the past decades.
The U.S. took an unusually public stance in the case as Shahin's health deteriorated. In its most recent public statement last Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi reiterated its concerns about Shahin's wellbeing and again urged Emirati authorities to release him on bail.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the two richest of the seven United Arab Emirates. The federation maintains strong economic ties with the U.S. and hosts important American air bases and other strategic sites.
Akers is hopeful his client will be released early next week. He said Shahin has a court hearing set for July 15.