A British primary school teacher who spent months wrongly jailed in a Kuwait prison after being found innocent of drugs charges has made an emotional return to the UK.
Sara Assayed, 35, was sentenced to 10 years behind bars after a 30-minute “sham” trial in March 2021.
Despite her conviction being overturned in June, she remained in a cell until this week, WalesOnline reports.
After a two-year-long battle, Sara, from Barry, was finally able to embrace her mother, Helen, as she landed back on British soil on Friday morning.
Her sister Sheree, who had campaigned tirelessly to get her home, said: “We’re just relieved that she’s home, she’s safe, she’s among us.
“We’re extremely happy. We knew we were not going to stop until we got her out.
“We’re so relieved that we don’t have to wait for her next phone call to hear her voice and how stressful it is inside and how her mental health is deteriorating and not have answers for her for why she’s not out yet.
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“We don’t have to wake up every day and face the world, act normal when every moment of the day our thoughts are about her situation and what she’s going through.
“We just want to take this time as a family to enjoy having her home and the little things over the last two years that we have missed with her.”
The teacher’s desperate family had repeatedly appealed to the British government for her to be freed from prison after she was arrested in March 2019.
Sara had been travelling home with a colleague after running an evening class for disabled children when she was stopped by police.
They arrested her on a drug-related offence and confiscated her car, leaving her friend to get a taxi home.
The teacher was initially remanded in custody for four months until her family managed to get her released on bail.
But when they had to leave her to wait in Kuwait for the trial after her passport was taken, Sara’s mental health rapidly deteriorated.
Sheree said: “She told me if she doesn’t get out she’s going to commit suicide. Her mental health is in a state.”
The sister contacted the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), who liaised with the British Embassy to put the family in contact with an employee.
Sheree explained the embassy employee’s English isn’t at a level where the two can communicate effectively, and any attempts to speak to the ambassador directly over the phone was rejected.
Sara’s dad Ziad, who is an engineer, flew to Kuwait hoping to secure a meeting with the ambassador – but the family say he was turned down by the diplomatic chief’s staff.
“We had totally no support from the British Embassy,” Sheree said.
“The FCDO know her situation and they keep referring us to the British Embassy in Kuwait, the British Embassy in Kuwait keep referring us to the FCDO in London.”
In December last year Sara faced a rigged trial in which she was not allowed to take the stand or speak to give any of her own evidence.
It lasted less than 30 minutes and the judge handed down a guilty verdict.
After trying and failing to get the embassy to help them, the family managed to hire another lawyer in Kuwait, who secured an appeal in February 2021.
“In one hour the lawyer was able to provide enough evidence that my sister was framed and there were no drugs involved,” Sheree said.
Inaccuracies between police reports, as well as various drug tests and telephone records, were used to prove Sara had never been involved with drugs.
Her guilty verdict was overturned on February 15, but she was informed that she had to be deported regardless.
However, when Sara was sent to the deportation centre the British Embassy had no details pertaining to her deportation. After two days she was sent back to prison to await deportation.
Sara was placed in isolation due to the Covid pandemic, where she was kept with no pillows or blankets for fourteen days.
The family were told to hire further lawyers to organise deportation letters, only for the recommended legal advocates to inform the family that these papers are the responsibility of the embassy.
They ended up paying around £20,000 in legal fees.
“It has been horrific,” the sister said.
Sara’s family launched a petition insisting the government take responsibility for her case, and finally managed to make some headway.
The Foreign Office confirmed earlier this month that they were assisting the family.
On Wednesday they were finally informed that she would be deported and arrive back in the UK shortly.