Published on NewsOK Modified: April 21, 2014 at 6:18 pm •  Published: April 21, 2014


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WASHINGTON — For Zack Shahin and his Houston family, the nightmare continues. Day after day, year after year.

Shahin has been jailed in Dubai since 2008 after being arrested and accused of various financial improprieties in his job as CEO of a Dubai development company.

Since then, he has been acquitted of one charge; had another charge dropped; and been convicted of yet another charge, but won reversal of that conviction. He currently stands convicted of nothing.

In the meantime, he has missed his son's high school graduation; his daughter's sweet sixteen celebration; and all the days in between that make up six years of family life.

Now, as his lawyers grow increasingly frustrated with both the snail's-pace legal proceedings and the State Department's inability to find a diplomatic avenue to secure his freedom, Shahin waits in jail for yet another trial. And his family struggles on without him.

Shahin, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Lebanon, met his wife Soha in Houston in 1991. He married her that year and quickly advanced in the business world, working for Pepsico first in the United States and later in the United Arab Emirates, and then in banking.

Then he accepted a position as CEO of Deyaar Development in Dubai.

On March 23, 2008, Shahin was arrested at his office, and was accused of bribery, embezzlement and other improprieties.

A statement on a website posted by supporters alleges that Shahin was subjected to harsh interrogation methods including sleep deprivation, threats with torture devices, marathon interrogation sessions, and threats against his family.

According to the statement "all the financial transactions and activities alleged to be in violation of law were signed and approved by the Board of Directors and board chairman of the company, and subject to quarterly and annual audits ... by Ernst & Young."

No formal charges were filed against Shahin for the first 13 months of his detention.

Shahin's lawyers, James Jatras and Eric Akers, can do nothing to speed the case along.

"Usually there's a hearing every two months," Akers said. "Sometimes the arbitrators show up, sometimes the witnesses show up, sometimes they don't."

Soha moved back to Houston six months after Shahin's arrest. Now, their son is 21 and their daughter 16.

"There have been a lot of occasions (in their lives) that he missed," Soha said in an interview.

"These ... things are very important for a family to see together."

A State Department official who declined to be identified said, "We have definitely been actively engaged with the UAE government and with the officials in Dubai since Mr. Shahin was initially arrested and then incarcerated."

But Jatras said, "It is extremely frustrating to see this kind of essentially studied silence, at least public silence when it comes to what American officials are willing to say publicly about Zack's case, which is frankly the only kind of representation the Emirates will take seriously."

He added, "The decision to keep him in jail is essentially not a judicial decision, it's a political decision. If political authorities in our government spoke out about it, I'm confident it could be resolved. If they don't, then somebody, somewhere, will keep him in jail for as long as they want for whatever reason they want."

While the road has been long and frustrating for the Shahin family and Shahin's legal team, Akers has hope that headway may be made soon.

Akers said they have new information that "could justify a greater involvement by the State Department." The information could challenge the basis of the suits and make clear that Shahin has been treated differently because he is an expatriate.

Akers noted that expatriates have faced trouble with the legal system in Dubai before, but their governments have "gone to bat for them" more than the United States has for Shahin.

Meanwhile, Soha says that being without her husband isn't getting any easier.

"You know, the more they grow up, my kids, the harder it becomes. It's difficult to deal with them both, you know? They need their father."

Shahin's time in detention amounts to more than a quarter of the couple's 23-year marriage.

When he is released, she said, they plan on staying in Houston.

Soha said the thing she most wants people to know is that her husband "is a very honest man and he's always been a straightforward businessman.

"Everybody respects him."



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