A British businessman jailed for 37 years in Qatar for a bounced cheque has admitted: ‘I may never see my family again’.
Jonathan Nash fears he will die behind bars after being given such a draconian sentence despite his minor crime.
The 48-year-old from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire is desperate to see his two children and elderly mother, Jennie Nash.
But he told a friend in a phone conversation last week: ‘I’m not sure that I will ever get out.
‘All my pleas have so far been ignored and I’ve come to the realisation that I may die in prison or be a very old man if I ever do leave this place.
British businessman Jonathan Nash (pictured with his young daughter) was jailed for 37 years in Qatar for a bounced cheque has admitted: ‘I may never see my family again’
‘What is causing me the most pain is that I may never see my family again.
‘I don’t know who else to turn to, I guess only the generosity of the Emir to intervene personally on my behalf could help.’
Mr Nash has been languishing in the Central Prison, in the Qatari capital of Doha, for three years.
The grim jail houses as many as 12 prisoners to one dirty, cockroach-infested cell with inmates having to either bed down on a paper thin mattress or the rock solid floor.
Associate Isabella Alexandra handed a letter to the Qatari Embassy in central London this week appealing for Mr Nash’s pardon
Temperatures in the summer are sweltering but there is little access to drinking water.
Charity, Detained in Dubai, which fights for Britons trapped in prisons across the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, is now fighting his case.
Associate Isabella Alexandra handed a letter to the Qatari Embassy in central London on Monday appealing directly to the country’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who has the authority to pardon any prisoner on merciful or humanitarian grounds.
Miss Alexandra said: ‘The sentence Mr Nash received was grossly disproportionate, and more applicable to someone convicted of a violent crime.
‘There were several legal errors over the course of his trials; including the fact that he was denied the right to appeal the verdicts.
‘Jonathan has a young family; he did not intend for the cheques to bounce, he did not profit from them, and the decision to refuse payment was not his.
‘We appealed to the Emir of Qatar to consider all of these circumstances, and we hope for a wise and compassionate response.’
Mr Nash was CEO for Top House, a company based in Doha, which offers Technical, commercial and management services to the local construction industry.
In the oil-rich Middle Eastern state, it is normal practice to write cheques in advance, as assurance of payment in the future.
Mr Nash, 48, from High Wycombe, Bucks, fears he will die behind bars after being given such a draconian sentence despite his minor crime. He has already spent three years behind bars
However, Mr Nash believes he was the victim of a dirty tricks campaign which saw lies and rumours spread about him, prompting many of his clients to lose confidence and hastily cash the cheques he had written on behalf of the company.
Due to an internal dispute within Top House, the payments were blocked and because Mr Nash had written them himself, he was personally liable under Qatari law.
He was arrested and thrown in jail in March 2015 and has only appeared in court just once since then when he spoke only to confirm that he issued and signed the cheque and that he was unable to make the payments.
No opportunity was given for him explain himself and to date Mr Nash has not been given any proper legal representation or even seen the evidence against him.
Yet before Christmas last year he was sentenced, in his absence, to 37-years in prison for fraud. If he makes it out he will be nearly an 80-year-old man.
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, warned that Mr Nash’ treatment threatens to harm relations between Britain and Qatar, which is due to host the football World Cup tournament in 2022.
She said: ‘We value and encourage transparency, and we hope that the government of Qatar will understand and embrace this.
‘The British public is shocked by the harshness of the sentence imposed upon Jonathan Nash; and with a background of serious legal irregularities in his case, this has caused concern among UK businesspeople and investors about the advisability of doing business in Qatar, when one can so easily be incarcerated for life over what is essentially an internal dispute within a company.
‘Our intention with this letter is to draw the attention of the emir not only to Jonathan’s plight in particular, but also to the procedural shortcomings which we believe led to his unjust sentence.’
With regards the conditions Mr Nash is being held in, she added: ‘The prison facilities in Qatar have been reported by other prisoners with whom we have had telephone contact, to be ‘dirty and overcrowded’ and what one would expect of a middle eastern prison.’
Three days after his arrest, Mr Nash negotiated with Mashreq Bank five million Qatari Riyals to cover any debts but the police have refused to take that into account.
And while being stuck in one of the world’s harshest prisons, he said he has been informed that Top House assets, including cars and office furniture are being sold off and that the funds have disappeared.
His desperate family back in the UK are praying that compassion and sensibility overturn his unjust sentence.
Daughter Katie, 17, said: ‘My dad has missed some important times in my life, for example my GCSE results or my school prom.
‘I haven’t hugged my Dad in over 3 years – I miss him so much, he has missed a massive part of my life by not being here with me.
‘We were so close but the last time I saw him I was 13 years old, I’m now 17 years old. I just want him home as soon as possible.’
Mr Nash’s distraught mother, Jennie, 77, speaks to him on the phone but the prison guards restrict calls and often don’t answer the telephone, so she can go weeks without word from her son.
Mrs Nash said:’ This is every mother’s worst nightmare, we all think it will never happen to us….when it does it is a real shock.
‘Jonathan’s detention and heavy prison sentence have left us all reeling, we feel so helpless and we are really concerned for his well-being and safety.’
Mr Nash’ ex-wife Bev added: ‘Life has been very hard for me and our two children. It has affected my health with stress and anxiety.
‘Our children have been very brave during this period, especially our daughter. Sadly for both children they have lived several of their young years without the love and support of a father. ‘