A 26-year-old Italian tells IBTimes UK of the nightmare he endured after being arrested for alleged possession of marijuana in Dubai four years ago. We have withheld his name to protect his identity.
I landed at Dubai airport at about 5am. I was supposed to wait there six hours for a connection flight to take me home at the end of six months spent abroad. The Sydney-Dubai flight had lasted more than 15 hours and I was exhausted.
I was travelling with two Italian girls. On that day, Dubai was celebrating some kind of festivity, possibly the Sheikh's birthday, as I remember his blow-ups - or those of some of his predecessors - were posted everywhere.
At a baggage check a woman wearing a black burqa asked me if I was a smoker. "Yes," I answered. "Tobacco".
She looked at me, at my lip piercing and long hair and at the two western girls I was with; I saw disdain in her eyes.
It must have been her who tipped off the authorities, as a few metres away I was stopped by custom security officials. One took me aside, opened my backpack and pulled from it a tinfoil package containing some seeds.
He asked me what they were. I was clueless. I had no idea what was going on.
But my new friend had an idea. In fact he already knew: it was marijuana. How could he know? Seeds all look pretty much alike, but he was sure it was weed anyway.
They took me to a separate room and I had to hand in all my belongings. Watch, documents, mobile phone and wallet. They told me to undress. I asked to call the embassy. "Later!" they intimated.
Not all of them spoke good English. I took my clothes off; they checked my privates, told me to get dressed again and then took me to another room, where I was to wait for anti-drug authorities.
I started thinking I was in a nightmare. I kept on telling them the seeds weren't mine, that somebody must had put the package in my bag. But, at the same time, I couldn't accuse them of malpractice.
They were all dressed the same, with long white tunics that made it impossible for me to understand who was in charge, who the highest-ranked official was.
I waited there for a couple of hours. Then they brought me a document written in Arabic and demanded I sign it.
If I confessed my guilt they would have let me go, they said. On the other hand, woes betide if I was not to sign and drugs were found in my baggage.
By then I was completely worn out; I hadn't drunk or eaten anything but I was clear minded, all my senses were on alert, possibly because of the adrenaline pumping in my body.
I had refused everything, even water, fearing it could be drugged; another way to f**k me.
I spoke to myself and decided not to sign. I was a victim of circumstances and it wasn't right to lie to myself and to them confessing something I hadn't done. Whatever it was going to happen I had to maintain my innocence.
My denial had consequences: they took my fingerprints, mugshots and I was taken away from the airport. Destination: Dubai police station, anti-drugs department.
In Dubai a s****y situation such as mine is made even more absurd by the stark contrast with the surrounding opulence.
I was made to sit on the rear seats of a huge and comfortable Lexus, a car they probably use to carry prisoners over there.
The police station was a massive compound, with surrounding walls that enclosed numerous buildings and a golf course.
Their policemen were less kind. They shouted at me and put me in a single cell. It wasn't dirty but completely bare.
My mental strength started to fade away. When you're in a prison cell nobody speaks to you, nor answers your calls and enquires. I never felt like that in my life, it was more than frustration, it was being no-one.
I had no idea what was going to happen. I had lost my connection flight and no one knew where I was. I didn't even know the time. It was less than being a human being. Later my friends told me they had called the embassy, which tried to contact the police station in vain.
I heard screams coming from other cells. I was terrified.
At some point they told me I was to undergo a urine test. If the result was positive I would have been brought before the Islamic judge the following week, they said.
Meanwhile muezzins' prayers and the smell of incense filled the air: it was a public holiday.
They questioned me again. They asked me why I wanted to plant marijuana in their country. They seemed not to get the fact that I was supposed to stay there for only six f***ing hours.
A huge Arab man took me to piss in another building. The doctor kept on staring at my c**k and I couldn't pee. He heard no reasons. I finally pissed but my bladder was tense and it hurt.
At least I was able to check the time. I had felt lost without knowing it and I realised how much we depend upon time awareness. My nightmare had lasted far less time than I had thought.
They took me back to my cell and the longest and most crushing hours of my entire life began.
I wasn't sure I would have come out clean [of the test]. I wasn't sure at all.
In front of my cubicle a hallway led to a department dedicated to female inmates. In one cell there was a white girl with a little baby. They brought us rice and boiled fish.
The baby was crying and crying; he was hungry. The woman asked for some milk or juice for the baby but her request was turned down by a female guard, who brought some oranges instead.
The girl held the baby in her arms, lulling him. She attempted to sing a lullaby to make him sleep but couldn't stop sobbing.
I'll never forget that scene. In countries like the UAE human rights are stamped on with no regard. Why couldn't they get we are all made of flesh and bones, blood and breath?
As my mind was far away, close to madness, out of the blue they told me I had to purchase a new flight ticket, as I was to be kicked out of the country the next day. I gained 10 years of life; it was like giving a three-course meal to a starving man.
I was transferred to a communal cell holding another eight men. Most of them were pushers or junkies.
At least the room was wide and had a loo in it. Tension had left my body and my muscles were relaxing so that I needed the toilet. I didn't feel too comfortable but I went anyway. Some of my fellow inmates were sleeping on the floor. Only an old man stared at me and started railing against me in Arabic. I looked the other way and sat down pretending to be calm.
A few hours later, I started talking with an African guy; he was from Zambia, if I remember well. They caught him with numerous grams of weed. He knew he was f***ed. Night came and passed quickly. I couldn't sleep but I don't remember much.
An old man offered me some Arabic bread. He told me he had been locked up there for three days because he took anti-depressants - they are banned in Dubai, as are painkillers, and you can be locked up in the blink of an eye because of them.
In the morning I was taken into a police van. To my surprise and joy, the girl with the baby was also waiting inside. We shared our stories on the way to the airport. She came from South Africa and was blonde and beautiful. They had caught her with some joints and she was also going to be thrown out.
Once at the airport, officials escorted us to the ticket desk where we bought our journey home. They then took us to the check-in with our papers reading: "persona non grata". We hugged incredulous.
Our escort left us there, but I could feel the white tunics watching me until I stepped on the plane. Since my arrest I hadn't been allowed to contact anyone; not my family, nor the embassy.
I had been like a mouse at the cat's mercy. Somehow I had escaped, I was safe, but I've no idea how. However sitting on the plane I couldn't imagine that such a trauma never leaves you; it comes visiting at night, a nightmare that never leaves you.