|www.corpun.com : Archive : 2000 : AE Prisons Dec 2000|
The Mail on Sunday, London, 31 December 2000
I lived with the daily threat of being whipped ...my two years in an Arab jail almost drove me to suicide
Ex-head teacher found with cannabis tells of her nightmare in notorious desert prison
By Gill Martin
FORMER head teacher Lynn Majakas was driven to the brink of madness and suicide by her ordeal in a notorious Arab jail.
Ms Majakas, who was convicted of possessing three grams of cannabis but still maintains her innocence, spent more than two years in the Al Wathba prison, enduring cramped conditions, sweltering heat and freezing cold.
She also watched in terror as fellow inmates were flogged.
Ms Majakas, 45, and Ian Bamling, 31, a welfare officer at her special needs school in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, were arrested when they went to the United Arab Emirates for a holiday in October, 1998.
They were sentenced to four years for possessing cannabis and a further six months (later quashed on appeal) for possessing duty-free alcohol.
But the pair were released last week in an act of clemency to mark the Moslem holy month of Ramadan.
Ms Majakas said: 'I was right on the edge. I had to plead to see a psychiatric doctor, who put me on antidepressants. I am still on them. I can understand how people are driven to suicide.
'It was the constant threat of having my sentence increased for trafficking and the tantalising possibility of being granted clemency that played on my mind. You lived with the awful uncertainty of never knowing what was happening.
When the case came to trial, the court ignored an affidavit from her friend, a steward, testifying that the case and contents were his.
Ms Majakas was sent to the desert prison of Al Wathba, where around 250 inmates shared five working toilets, four working sinks and three showers.
In the courtyard, she would see women prisoners flogged if they were caught smoking or smuggling cigarettes, or for going on hunger strike because their cases were being ignored.
'I didn't want to watch, but I had to see for myself so I could tell the British Embassy.
'The kneeling woman holds on to a chair and a man with a big cane lashes her back, you never know how many times, from five to 15.
'There is a whooshing sound and a sudden gasp from the woman.
'The tears were rolling down my face. I couldn't believe the barbarism.
'The women would be black and purple from bruising. I saw so many beatings, I became desensitised.
'Another punishment was making them stand on hot tiles until their feet blistered.' Ms Majakas, a divorcee who lived in Hounslow, West London, accepts that her career in teaching is over.
Copyright Associated Newspapers Ltd. 2000
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