Torture Scandal In Abu Dhabi May Grow

A disturbing video that aired last month on ABC News depicting what appears to be the torture of an Afghan grain farmer by a member of Abu Dhabi's royal family may represent just one of many instances of torture involving Sheik Issa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, a brother of the crown prince.

The ABC report on the video is here. It shows a man identified as Sheik Issa "mercilessly torturing a man with whips, electric cattle prods and wooden planks with protruding nails." A man in a United Arab Emirates police uniform assists with the torture. The victim – reportedly an Afghan grain dealer – also has salt poured on his wounds and is run over with a Mercedes SUV.

In parts of the tape not aired, Sheik Issa reportedly pours lighter fuel on the victim's testicles and lights them on fire and inserts a cattle prod into the victim's anus.

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE, one of the world's leading exporters of oil. The Nahayan's are its ruling family. The tape was reportedly made by the brother of Bassam Nabulsi, an American businessman and former partner of Sheik Issa who is now engaged in a lawsuit against him, at the request of the Sheik.

After the report aired, the UAE government said it would investigate the incident, with the Abu Dhabi Justice Department vowing to "conduct a comprehensive review of the matter immediately and make its findings public."

But the tape might just be the first piece of evidence in a wider scandal. The Guardian reported on Sunday that the lawyer for Nabulsi, Sheik Issa's former partner, claims to have "more than two hours of video footage showing Sheikh Issa's involvement in the torture of more than 25 people." According to the newspaper, police are believed to be seen participating in the attacks and some of the victims are thought to be Sudanese immigrants.

Video of what appears to be al-Nahayan engaging in torture can be seen in the ABC News report and at, from which the photos in this post are taken. The site's author says the site was banned in the UAE and writes that that "the Royal Family attempted to sweep the torture under the rug and ignore it."

The scandal has come at a particularly bad time for the royal family. The New York Times reported on Friday that the tape "provoked outrage from members of Congress, who said it could add fuel to lawmakers' reservations about a pending civilian nuclear agreement between the United States and the United Arab Emirates."

The UAE badly wants the deal, which was worked out under President George W. Bush; it would mean the U.S. would share "expertise, technology and fuel in exchange for a promise by the Emirates to abide by international safeguards and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty."

If the UAE government prosecutes or punishes Sheik Issa, a prominent developer who has stayed in the Four Seasons in Houston, it could "damage the myth of the ruling family," scholar Christopher M. Davidson told the Times. But if they don't, they could jeopardize passage of the deal; Congressman James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, has called on Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton to investigate the matter.