UPDATE: Area man sentenced to 30 days in Arab jail

John Christensen
Adam Foster

According to reports posted on the Help Adam Foster facebook page, Adam Foster was convicted on the lesser charge of possessing a lost item and jailed for a month on Thursday.

Adam Foster, 30, of Watkins Glen and the son of Jeannette Andrews Foster, a native of Dundee, is the young man at the center of an international scandal over the treatment of prisoners by the United Arab Emirates, a close ally of the United States and one of the largest exporters of oil in the world.

Foster is a 1998 graduate of Watkins Glen High School, a 2002 graduate of Alfred University, and is currently an engineer for Cameron International Corp. in Buffalo.

According to his own account on facebook,  he arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Jan. 24, sent by his employer to install gas turbine  generators in Dubai.  Foster has worked in the United Arab Emirates several times as well as in Russia, Australia, Brazil, India, Thailand, Spain, Italy, and Mexico.

Only a day before his planned return to the states, Foster says he was questioned by the police about two bottles of wine given him as a going away present, but released without incident. The next day, he found a pair of handcuffs lying in the parking lot of a mall on the way to the airport. Without really thinking, he put them in his bag.

Foster’s tale runs downhill fast from there. The cuffs were discovered in his carry-on bag. He was questioned by airport security, but was told he could go once he signed a statement in Arabic. Despite not being able to read the statement and out of his desire to get home, Foster signed it, and was released to catch his plane.

But Foster missed that midnight flight. He rebooked for 2 a.m., boarded and was seated, only to be called back to security by the same guards who had released him earlier. They now said he had stolen the handcuffs from the police station he was at the prior evening.

Prosecutors accused him of stealing the handcuffs during questioning. “To this day, I remain confused by the prosecution’s accusation. I was under constant surveillance during my time at the police station, by personnel, security cameras, and the other detainees,” says Foster.

Foster was chained to 15 other men in a tiny cell and questioned repeatedly for 12 hours. “They finally took me into a room, cuffed my hands tightly behind my back and sat me down on a chair. The officer removed my shoes and socks and began to whip the soles of my bare feet with a heavy gauge metal cable. After 15 minutes of interrogation, the officer said to me, “I am going to continue to hit you until you tell me that you stole them.”

The beating went on. “He was not going to stop until I told him that I had stolen the handcuffs. I yielded. I was scared for my life. He told me to say, ‘I stole them from the desk.’ He then punched and slapped me in the face as he asked me why I had taken them. Not knowing what to say, I responded with the only thing I could muster, ‘because I’m a bad person.’” He was then forced to sign a confession in Arabic without an English translation.

Foster was taken to an overcrowded, squalid jail, where he said he was in constant fear for his life. Fearing more lashings or worse, whenever guards asked if he had taken the handcuffs, he answered, “yes.” Knowing his meetings with U.S. Embassy personnel were being watched, he could not discuss his case. His lawyer advised him that he would then be sent to prison for four years if he pled guilty.

Foster now had something more to fear than more beatings. “I had to revert back to the truth, no matter what the cost. I would rather be whipped again than to lose four years of my life.”

“I told the prosecutor my case and of the abuse inflicted by the Dubai police. I showed him the raw open wounds on my feet. He denied me the ability to take photos of my feet as evidence of the torture and shrugged it off as no big deal.” Only a month ago, Englishman Lee Bradley Brown was arrested for allegedly cursing in public, was denied contact with his embassy, was severly beaten by police, and died in custody, according to the BBC.

Foster was finally released only by surrendering his passport, guaranteeing that he would not leave the country. He is staying in a hotel, where he awaits the court’s decision on May 19, facing a minimum sentence of two years to a maximum of seven years.

The outcome will be posted on Foster’s facebook page.

He says his lawyer plans to ask the court for an acquittal, or failing that, a reduction of charge from “stealing in the dark,” to “finding and keeping,” which carries a sentence from one month to two years.

Adam’s mother, Jeannette, Postmaster of Reading Center, has been able to stay in close contact with him since his release. “He’s scared. He’s been scared since the get-go, but he is hopeful. We’re all scared, but we are so thankful for all the letters and prayers from everybody.” She also praised Cameron Corp. for their support of her son. They have provided his legal services and continued his pay in full. “He’s been a valued employee for nine years,” she said.

Foster’s greatest hope is that public awareness and outcry will help in his rescue from a fate similar to Bradley Brown’s. “All I want is to come home. Every single day I close my eyes and imagine that I am home enjoying all the beauty of Upstate New York, surrounded by my friends and family.”

In early May, Foster contacted family and friends in the area, seeking help through a letter-writing campaign.

Letters in support of Foster have been sent to the Ambassador of United Arab Emirates Yousef Al Otaiba; Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey D. Feltman and other elected officials.