UAE official named Interpol president

UAE official named Interpol president

Interpol on Thursday elected a contentious official from the United Arab Emirates as its new president during the international law enforcement body's annual General Assembly held in Istanbul.

A four-year term was announced by the global policing body, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Naser al-Raisi, inspector general at the United Arab Emirates interior ministry and a member of Interpol's executive committee. He has been accused of involvement in torture and arbitrary detentions in the UAE by human rights groups.

Another contentious candidate, Hu Binchen, an official in China's ministry of public security, was elected to join Interpol's executive committee as a delegate from Asia. Hu was supported by China's government, which is accused of using the global police body to hunt down exiled dissidents and disappearing its citizens.

Interpol said al-Raisi received 68.9 percent of the votes cast in the final round after three rounds of voting.

The global police agency quoted al-Raisi as saying that it was an honor to have been elected to serve as the next president of Interpol.

Interpol is an indispensable organization built on the strength of its partnerships. He said it is this collaboration spirit that I will continue to foster, united in mission, as we work to make a safer world for people and communities.

The vote for president was closely watched since the first-ever Chinese president of the body, Meng Hongwei, vanished midway through his four-year term on a return trip to China in 2018. He was charged with bribery and other alleged crimes after he was arrested and accused of bribery.

Al-Raisi is accused of torture and has criminal complaints against him in five countries, including in France, where Interpol has its headquarters, and in Turkey, where the election was held.

His election in the UAE was met with joy, but drew angry responses from two Britons who filed complaints.

Matthew Hedges, a British doctoral student who was imprisoned in the UAE for nearly seven months in 2018 on spying charges, said this day was a sad day for international justice and global policing. Hedges said he was subjected to torture and months of solitary confinement.

Ali Issa Ahmad a soccer fan who said he was tortured by the UAE security agency during the 2019 Asia Cup soccer tournament said he will not stop my fight for justice for the torture and abuse I suffered under Al-Raisi's watch. I hope Interpol will not allow him to abuse other people. Their lawyer, Rodney Dixon, said his clients would redouble their efforts to bring justice for their torture and pursue Gen. al-Raisi in national courts wherever he travels in his new position. Hedges was pardoned by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, but Emirati officials still insist Hedges was spying for Britain's MI 6 intelligence agency, without offering definitive proof to support their claims. He, his family and British diplomats have denied the charges repeatedly.

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a group of legislators from around the world, expressed concern over Hu s election to Interpol's executive committee, saying it gives China a green light to continue using Interpol as a vehicle for its repressive policies. There was no immediate comment from Beijing.

Emirati officials celebrated al-Raisi's selection in the UAE, now hosting the Expo 2020 world fair in Dubai and marking the 50th anniversary of its founding. Interior Minister Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan said it showed the world's confidence in the UAE. Al-Raisi praised UAE's leaders, saying that with their guidance and expertise the UAE has become one of the safest countries in the world. He pledged to modernize Interpol's technology, promote women and meet new challenges like climate change and the coronaviruses epidemic.

I will continue to reaffirm a core tenet of our profession - that police abuse or mistreatment of any kind is abhorrent and intolerable, he said in a statement on his website. Our most important asset is the credibility and standing of Interpol and global law enforcement. Al-Raisi traveled the world to meet lawmakers and government officials as part of his election campaign, boasting academic degrees from the U.K. and the U.S. and years of experience in policing.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, activist with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, warned that al-Raisi's election represents the beginning of a dangerous era, with authoritarian regimes now able to dictate international policing. Alwadaei said that no one is safe from the abuse of Interpol and authoritarian regimes.

Al-Raisi replaces Kim Jong Yan from South Korea, a vice president who was swiftly elected as a replacement to serve the rest of Meng's term.

Interpol's secretary-general runs Interpol on a day-to-day basis, but the president is responsible for supervising the police body's work and guiding its general direction. The president chairs Interpol's general assemblies and meetings of its Executive Committee.

The post of secretary-general is currently held by Juergen Stock of Germany.

Interpol also said Valdecy Urquiza of Brazil was elected to the post of vice president for the Americas, while Garba Baba Umar of Nigeria was elected vice president for Africa.

More than 160 police chiefs, ministers, and other representatives from more than 160 countries attended the three-day meeting. Each country that attends has a vote.