French prosecutors probe Interpol boss over torture claims

French prosecutors have opened a case against Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi, the president of the international police agency Interpol, on allegations of “complicity in torture.”

Following AFP reports, the French national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office confirmed to POLITICO that it had at the end of March commissioned a judge to probe a complaint against Al-Raisi.

The complaint alleges “torture” and “arbitrary detentions” in 2018 and 2019 against the Interpol chief, then a senior security official in the United Arab Emirates. It was introduced by two Brits, including Matthew Hedges, an academic convicted on spying charges by the UAE after travelling to Dubai to conduct research. Hedges was detained for seven months and sentenced to life in prison in 2018 before being “pardoned” less than a week later after an international outcry.

A representative for the anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said that the investigative judge would check whether Al-Raisi was on French soil when the complaint was introduced, therefore giving French authorities jurisdiction over the case. The inquiry will also investigate whether the Interpol chief enjoys immunity thanks to his current position.

The investigative judge will then decide whether to press charges against Al-Raisi, though it is still unclear when the inquiry will be concluded. Interpol’s headquarters are located in the French city of Lyon. Al-Raisi could potentially be detained for questioning in France if he visits the country.

Last year, Hedges claimed damages in the high court in London for alleged assault, false imprisonment and the intentional infliction of psychiatric injury.

Al-Raisi was elected last November as president of Interpol, sparking harsh criticism from human rights organizations, which accused the UAE candidate of a long record of overseeing human rights abuses.

Interpol did not respond to a request for comment.