Christopher Renehan (38), owner of construction company Sire Contracting, was jailed in Dubai for bad checks. He is now being joined on his hunger strike by 70 other inmates.
Last Thursday he was joined by a Belgian property developer who also wants to highlight their position to the world. It’s now expected that another 70 prisoners, being held under the same law, will join them.
Renehan has being on hunger strike for more than a week and is becoming increasingly weak.
He has, so far, served seven months of a seven year jail term. The prisoners say there more than 500 people behind bars for “bouncing cheques”.
The builder from Dublin said that although his cheques did bounce he was also owed $8.6 million (€6.6 million) by the Dubai government for work which his company, Sire Contracting, had already carried out for them. He said without that he has no way to pay the $2.62 million (€2 million) he owes his suppliers.
Officials from the Irish Embassy in Abu Dhabi met with Renehan last Tuesday. He says he will continue to refuse meals until he receives his money from the government.
The Sun reported Renehan as saying, “I fully understand the serious implications of this action. I demand that the Dubai government-owned entities pay the dues owed to my company so that we can resettle our debts and repatriate our staff.”
Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai, told IrishCentral that these men are protesting “against bounced cheque and financial crime laws in the UAE”.
“It is time the UAE reviewed financial laws as in modern life, they are now being misused and misapplied. Cheques are now being written to cover all aspects of daily life in the UAE (rental agreements, mortgages and business activities).
“If a resident is granted a mortgage for example, he writes a cheque to the bank for the entire value of the property. If he defaults of a few payments, the bank has the power to imprison him for three years, per cheque. It is time this practice of criminalizing debt is reviewed and turned into a civil offence, in line with first world standards.”
The Dublin builder’s father, living in Swords in north county Dublin, said, “We’re worried sick about him.”
According to his cellmate he’s “suffering from bad headaches”.
His father said told the Sun, “I have no choice but to go over there to see him. There is no talking him out of it. He is not taking any food at all, just water.”