LAS VEGAS (CN) – Relatives of an American businessman vacationing in Aqaba, Jordan, say he was beaten to death by prison guards there, and that Jordan officials conspired to cover it up. The parents and wife of Firas Zaidan seek $200 million in damages, to be donated to a charity in Zaidan’s honor.
Barbara Cole claims in Federal Court that her 35-year-old husband died May 10, 2007 after four days of brutal beatings with electrical cables and sticks.
Cole says her husband was falsely accused of failing to pay rent on an apartment in Aqaba. She says he was hauled into court and sentenced to six days in prison at the Aqaba Rehabilitation and Correction Center for disorderly conduct without being represented by an attorney and without the chance to cross-examine his accuser.
“After several days of continuous severe beatings and torture,” Zaidan “became unconscious and lay dying as he was gasping for breath,” according to the complaint. He was taken to the Princess Haya Hospital in Aqaba, where doctors are accused of not only failing to treat him, but of injecting him with Haldol, an anti-psychotic medication, and returning him to prison guards.
The beatings continued until the evening of May 9, 2007 the lawsuit states, when he was put in a solitary confinement cell. He was found dead the next morning, according to the complaint.
Cole claims her husband was beaten by security guards so they could “embezzle” several hundred dollars in his pocket and his credit card. She says Zaidan’s credit card was used after his death to buy goods in Amman, several hundred miles from Aqaba.
The family says Jordan officials tried to conceal the man’s cause of death by telling his family that he died of a drug overdose from Clomapramine.
On Aug. 21, 2007, officials from the Jordanian Institute of Forensic Medicine released a report that blamed his death “on severe respiratory failure as a result of the toxic effects” of the drug, along with “bleeding inside the pulmonary tissues.”
Cole and Zaiman’s parents, Ismail and Hanan Sbaih, say threats also were made against witnesses and family members to not discuss the alleged beatings.
Plaintiffs are represented by Jesse Sbaih.