Former UN worker in jail since April over drug charges
A Vancouver man sentenced to four years in a Dubai prison on drug charges earlier this year was among the prisoners pardoned by the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) leader yesterday.
Bert Tatham, 35, will arrive at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport at 6:55 this evening, where he will be reunited with his family after serving eight months of his sentence.
"We’re trying to keep a low key on it because after eight-and-a-half months we feel like we’ll celebrate or whatever when he’s on the plane and on his way," his father Charlie Tatham, who lives in Ontario, told Torstar News Service yesterday.
Tatham was one of 377 inmates ordered released by Sheik Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum to mark the beginning of Eid Al Adha on Dec. 20.
The former UN worker was arrested at Dubai International Airport in April after a search turned up two spent poppy bulbs in his baggage along with trace amounts of hashish in the seams of his clothes. He was returning home from Kandahar where the anti-narcotics expert had spent the previous year working for an American company that was running poppy eradication projects.
An official summary of the case revealed that Tatham was set for release in late September but his status was revoked because he had earlier complained about an Aug. 1 beating by prison guards that left him with cuts and bruises.
After numerous appeals on his behalf, Canadian diplomats were able to make progress on the case last month, but were told to keep quiet by Dubai officials.
Lorenzo Bossano, an Italian cellmate of Tatham’s was elated by yesterday’s news.
"When everything you have is inside that room, you get to know that person," he told Torstar, adding that he is "very happy" that Tatham will soon be back home with his family.