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Tongues wagging over 'torture' sheikh's Bavarian second home

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Tongues wagging over 'torture' sheikh's Bavarian second home
Photo: DPA
12:23 CEST+02:00
The picturesque Bavarian town of Dietramzell gained unwanted attention this month as the second home of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Issa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan – recently exposed on tape viciously torturing a man. The Local spoke with Mayor Leni Gröbmaier.

The 2004 tape, broadcast by ABC News on April 22, features Al-Nahyan beating a bound Afghan man with a spiked board, inserting a cattle prod into his anus, lighting his testicles on fire, pouring salt in his wounds, and finally driving over him with a Mercedes SUV – with the sound of breaking bones clearly audible.

It was smuggled out of the United Arab Emirates and given to the station by Bassam Nabulsi, a former business associate of Sheikh Issa, who is suing him in a Houston court.

Footage of the shocking torture has caused an international uproar, threatening the reputation of the purportedly westernised Middle Eastern country. The UAE Ministry of the Interior confirmed to ABC that the man in the 45-minute video is Issa.

After initially saying the matter had been resolved between the sheikh and the torture victim, the country gave in to international pressure and detained Issa on house arrest Monday pending a criminal trial. If the case goes to trial, it would be the first-ever criminal prosecution of a UAE royal.

The dark desert torture scene is a far cry from Dietramzell's pastoral alpine vistas. According to Gröbmaier, Issa, half-brother of the ruler of Abu Dhabi, bought a large equestrian estate there in 2006.

“It's beautiful here, it has everything you could possibly want,” she told The Local. “We don't get a lot of outsiders.”

The town of just 5,300 in the county of Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen has offered the sheikh and his family plenty of privacy, which he supplemented by buying up all of the public roads surrounding the opulent Gut Schlieckenried estate and closing them, according to the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

“A few hundren thousand euros here and there play no role,” his local architect Gerhard Zach told daily tz, refusing to comment on the torture allegations.

While Issa's expansion plans, brightly lit corrals and road closures didn't particularly please local authorities, he has been described as a friendly neighbour, apt to show up at local barns as part of his equestrian interests, the paper said. One of Issa's children was also reportedly born there.

But the new video has caused a stir among Dietramzell residents, as well as German media looking for more details on the activities of the “torture sheikh” in Bavaria.

“Of course people are talking about it, and everyone disapproves, it's horrifying,” Gröbmaier said.

At the same time, the mayor is loath to condemn the mysterious neighbour's acts of torture – of which several other videos allegedly exist – recorded for him to watch afterwards in his home.

“This is a matter for justice,” she told The Local. “And German law enforcement has no jurisdiction over him anyway.”

Meanwhile, many residents have been frustrated by the media's failure to address the well-being of Issa's Afghan torture victim, she said.

“I can't comprehend how television stations can allow footage of the torture to go on for minutes without any regard for his dignity or health, and we all feel that way,” she said.

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