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Interpol on Thursday elected a controversial UAE official as the new president at the annual general meeting of the international law enforcement body in Istanbul.

Major General Ahmed Naser al-Raisi, inspector general of the UAE’s interior ministry and member of Interpol’s executive committee, has been elected for a four-year term, the global police body said. He has been accused by human rights groups of being involved in acts of torture and arbitrary detention in the United Arab Emirates.

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Another contentious candidate, Hu Binchen, an official in China’s Ministry of Public Security, was elected to join Interpol’s executive committee as a delegate from Asia. Hu has been backed by the Chinese government, which is suspected of using global police to hunt down exiled dissidents and make its citizens disappear.

Interpol said al-Raisi was elected after three rounds of voting and received 68.9% of the vote cast in the last round.

“It is an honor to have been elected to be the next president of Interpol”, said al-Raisi, quoted by the world police agency.

“Interpol is an essential organization built on the strength of its partnerships. It is this spirit of collaboration, united in mission, that I will continue to foster as we work to make the world a safer place for people and communities, ”he said.

The vote for the president has been closely watched since the body’s very first Chinese president, Meng Hongwei, disappeared midway through his four-year term on a return trip to China in 2018. He is thereafter. emerged that he had been detained and charged with corruption and other alleged crimes.

Al-Raisi is accused of torture and has filed criminal complaints against him in five countries, including France, where Interpol is headquartered, and Turkey, where the election was held.

His election was greeted with joy in the United Arab Emirates, but drew angry reactions from two Britons who lodged complaints.

“It’s a sad day for international justice and global police,” said Matthew Hedges, a British doctoral student jailed in the United Arab Emirates for nearly seven months in 2018 on espionage charges. Hedges says he was subjected to torture and months of solitary confinement.

Ali Issa Ahmad, a soccer fan who says he was tortured by the UAE security agency during the 2019 Asian Cup soccer tournament, said: “I will not stop my fight for justice for the torture and abuse I suffered under Al-Raisi’s leadership. I hope Interpol will not allow him to abuse other people.

Their lawyer, Rodney Dixon, said his clients “would redouble their efforts to seek justice for their tortures and prosecute General al-Raisi in national courts wherever he goes in his new post.”

Hedges was pardoned by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, but UAE officials still insist Hedges was spying on behalf of UK intelligence agency MI6, without providing definitive evidence to substantiate their assertions. He, his family and British diplomats have repeatedly denied the charges.

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which brings together lawmakers from around the world, has expressed concern over Hu’s election to Interpol’s executive committee, saying it is giving China “the green light to continue using Interpol as a vehicle for its repressive policy “. There was no immediate comment from Beijing.

In the United Arab Emirates, which now hosts the Expo 2020 World Expo in Dubai and marks the 50th anniversary of its founding, Emirati officials celebrated al-Raisi’s selection. Interior Minister Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan said this demonstrated “the world’s confidence in the United Arab Emirates”.

Al-Raisi praised the leaders of the UAE, saying that “with their guidance and expertise, the UAE has become one of the safest countries in the world.” He is committed to modernizing Interpol’s technology, promoting women and tackling new challenges like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

“I will also continue to reaffirm a fundamental principle of our profession – that police abuse or mistreatment of any kind is heinous and intolerable,” he said in a statement posted on his website. “The credibility and reputation of Interpol and global law enforcement are our most important asset. “

Al-Raisi has traveled the world to meet with lawmakers and government officials as part of his election campaign, bragging about UK and US college degrees and years of police experience.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, an activist with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, warned that al-Raisi’s election “marks the start of a dangerous era, with authoritarian regimes now able to dictate police international “.

“No one is safe from the abuses of Interpol and authoritarian regimes,” Alwadaei said in a statement.

Al-Raisi replaces Kim Jong Yan of South Korea, a vice president who was quickly elected as a replacement to serve the remainder of Meng’s term.

Although the Interpol Secretary General heads Interpol on a day-to-day basis, the President plays a role in overseeing the work of the police body and in guiding its general direction. The president chairs the general meetings of Interpol and the meetings of its executive committee.

The post of Secretary General is currently held by Juergen Stock from Germany.

Meanwhile, Interpol also said that Valdecy Urquiza of Brazil was elected as vice president for the Americas, while Garba Baba Umar of Nigeria was elected vice president for Africa.

About 470 police chiefs, ministers and other representatives from more than 160 countries attended the three-day meeting. Each participating country has one vote.

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