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Judicial CP - November 1999


The Mail on Sunday, London, 14 November 1999

Families of drug-case Britons languishing in filthy desert cell pin their hopes on Royal visit

Will Prince Charles save my sister from 4 years of jail hell?

From Martin Smith
In the United Arab Emirates


AS A convoy of luxury cars, one containing the Prince of Wales, sweeps past a featureless complex on the crest of a desert sand dune, the Prince is unlikely to give the buildings a second glance.

But this is Abu Dhabi's notorious Al Wathba jail, holding two Britons whose desperate plight threatens to overshadow the 12-day visit to the United Arab Emirates he begins this week.

While Charles is feted in the Royal Pavilion, Lynn Majakas, a 44-year-old headmistress, and Ian Bamling, 30, a welfare assistant, will spend another day in appalling, mediaeval conditions as convicted drugs smugglers.

The Mail on Sunday managed to speak to Mr Bamling inside the jail for two minutes yesterday. He was kept in a cage by armed guards and forced to shout to be heard above the bedlam.

He spoke rapidly and urgently: "There is a lot of stuff going on in here that I just can't talk about but I've been quite lucky. I'm in a cell with nine other guys and two of them have been looking after me.

"The food is revolting but I've been getting extra fruit which helps a lot. And we are not locked in our cell all the time because there are so many of us they can't shut the door. So we spill out on to the landing to sleep at night."


To their jailers, the two Britons are pariahs who merit the full weight of Moslem law for breaking strict rules on drugs and alcohol.

But Majakas and Bamling, sentenced last week to four-and-a-half years, are portrayed by their families and colleagues as hardworking, respectable educators of disabled children who found themselves caught up in a nightmare miscarriage of justice.


Mr Bamling, in letters to his mother [...] tells of caring for inmates who have been given 100 lashes and others thrown into solitary confinement for weeks. He wrote: 'I no longer wish to eat ... I truly am in the worst place on earth.' [...]

Ms Majakas was head of Bedelsford School in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. Her sister, Ann Copsey, a 41-year-old education adviser from Langport, Somerset, said: 'Lynn has seen women flogged in front of their children. She has felt giant cockroaches crawling over her at night [...]

The families have been told that an appeal is a waste of time. Now they are imploring the Prince of Wales to intervene [...]

Additional reporting by Andy Chapman and Nick Constable.

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