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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Scot held in Iraq: 'I was jumping around my cell shouting freedom'

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A Scottish engineer who spent two months in custody in Iraq says he jumped around his cell shouting freedom when told he was being released.

Brian Glendinning, 43, had been detained over a debt conviction from his time working in Qatar.

The father-of-three did not know he was on an Interpol list as a wanted fugitive until he was held in Basra in September.

His ordeal ended on Sunday after a campaign led by his wife and family.

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Mr Glendinning is now expected to return home to Kincardine in Fife within days.

He said: “I honestly thought I was there for at least another few months while paperwork was sent from Qatar.

“So when I heard I was being released I felt a massive relief. I was jumping around the cell shouting ‘freedom’.

“I got a little carried away when I think about it, but that’s how I felt at the time.”

Brian Glendinning

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Mr Glendinning’s wife Kimberley and his family had been calling for the UK government to intervene in his case since last month.

They finally got news of his release after the bank which is owed the money issued a clearance note stamped by the authorities in Qatar saying they no longer wanted him extradited.

Speaking from a secure hotel, Mr Glendinning said: “To just get to call my wife and family and tell them I am coming home was the best phone call home I had made in weeks.

“This would never have happened if it wasn’t for the support and love from family and friends and the people of Kincardine.

“I will never forget what they have done for me.”

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Mr Glendinning’s brother John told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme the conditions in the Iraqi prison were “vile”.

“Brian was held in a holding cell with up to 44 people – a mixture of terrorists, drug dealers, people who murdered their own father, using a shotgun,” he said.

“And there was Brian Glendinning, never missed a day of school and arguably on a civil case and held in those conditions.

“The welfare was extremely low. Bottles of water were kept where rats were visible crawling over them. Brown water out the taps for the shower and food was very poor.”

Mr Glendinning was picked up by British embassy staff on Sunday and is now in a secure hotel.

His brother John said: “I’ve seen a photo of him with a beer and I’m so happy he’s free.”

In 2017 Mr Glendinning was sentenced in his absence to two years in prison for defaulting on a debt.

Brian Glendinning with his granddaughter

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He had agreed to take out a £20,000 loan with his bank in Qatar while working in Doha in 2016, but was not able to keep up full repayments when he lost his job.

His family told how he was made redundant in 2017, while on sick leave at home in Scotland, but had kept in touch with the bank, not realising he had been convicted of a crime.

He only discovered the arrest warrant meant he was on an Interpol red list when he was detained at Basra airport in September.

His brother sold his car to help pay his brother’s legal bills, which within four weeks of his arrest had soared to £30,000.

A crowdfunding appeal set up by the family to help cover legal costs has since raised more than £30,700 of a £40,000 target.

Pressure on family

Since Mr Glendinning’s arrest, his family have been supported by Radha Stirling, the founder of Detained in Dubai and IPEX.

She has helped hundreds of people unfairly detained in or at risk of being extradited to the UAE and the Middle East.

These include Conor Howard, an engineer from Tranent, East Lothian. He was held in Greece in 2020, under an Interpol warrant, over a conviction for carrying a herb-grinder on a plane trip that stopped in Doha.

She told BBC Scotland Mr Glendinning had been “aggressively pursued” to take out a loan by his bank in Qatar, as is “standard practice” there.

Ms Stirling added: “The problem with Qatar banks is when they want to pursue someone on Interpol to put pressure on the family to pay the debt, they add legal fees and charges to get the amount over the Interpol threshold, which is €15,000, then wait for that person to be detained and put pressure on their parents or their families to sell assets or use their life’s savings to bail out their child.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Development office confirmed it was providing consular support to Mr Glendinning.

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