Brit footballer jailed for 25 years in Dubai over CBD oil launches bid for freedom as family blasts ‘ridiculous arrest’
A BRIT footballer jailed in Dubai over CBD vape oil has launched a desperate bid for freedom.
The family of Billy Hood, 24, have blasted his "ridiculous arrest" after he was found guilty of possession, selling and drug trafficking after police found just four small bottles of vape oil in his car.
A friend of Billy, from Ladbroke Grove in London, has said he was “tortured” and “tasered” in a hell-hole Dubai prison.
Billy has now launched an appeal against his conviction with the help of campaigners Detained in Dubai.
According to the group's CEO Radha Sterling said "it's very clear" the court "never even heard Billy's defence".
“The prosecution evidence that Billy was ‘selling drugs’ relies solely on Billy having £4,000 cash in his apartment and they are fully aware this was money paid by his employer for his coaching job," she said.
She said with regards to the allegation of possession "social media communications confirm that the bottles were not Billy’s, did not belong to him and that he had no interest or desire to have them in his possession".
"Billy should not be punished for the mistakes of his friend," she said.
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"It is appalling that the police charged him with selling drugs and even more appalling that the Judge accepted it."
In a statement, his family said they were "angered" by what they claimed was the UAE's "propaganda" in the case.
“Authorities first say it was CBD vape ware and now they are calling it something else," they said.
"It seems like they are just trying to salvage their own terrible reputation after embarrassing the whole country with this ridiculous arrest.
“Billy’s drug tests all returned negative. Anyone who knows Billy has vouched for him and his 100 per cent anti-drug policy.
"It is absolutely absurd that the police have not only ruined his life but also slandered him and his reputation.
"It’s not acceptable that Billy has been held for more than nine months over four small bottles of vape oil that were not even his and that he has no interest in."
Speaking to a friend Alfie Cain after his arrest in January, Billy described facing horrendous conditions at the notorious Al-Barsha jail in Dubai.
Football agent Alfie says Billy was beaten daily for five days as officers from Dubai’s CID tried to force the young coach to confess to drug crimes.
“It's been bad in Al-Barsha, I'm not going to sugar coat it,” said Alfie, a former non-league footballer from London.
“When they took him to the CID drugs unit they beat him for an entire five days, he told me police officers tasered him, slapped him in the face and all they fed him was bread and little bit of water.
“He was basically tortured and put in a cell with 30 other people for five days.”
Billy told Alfie, also 24, he only signed the drug trafficking confession because officers told him if he signed the document, written in Arabic, they would stop the abuse.
"Billy said they told him he could go home if he signed the paper, that's why he gave in and signed that piece of paper in Arabic he had no idea what he signing, but he just wanted to make it stop.”
Human Rights Watch have slammed the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions at the jail.
Vaping CBD oil is legal in the UK and has become extremely popular – typically used to relieve pain, anxiety or stress.
But because it sometimes contains trace elements of THC – the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis – Billy was arrested and thrown in prison under the UAE’s harsh drug laws.
After his arrest on January 31, campaigners say Billy was forced to sign a false confession written in Arabic admitting to the more serious offences of selling and trafficking the oil.
Heartbroken Billy’s mum Breda, told The Sun: “I don’t think there’s a word in the dictionary that describes the pain I’m going through.
“I can't talk about it without tears forming in my eyes. It's too hard to take in.
Mum-of-three Breda, 55, said: “This is not our Billy, he is 100 per cent innocent."
In a statement through his lawyers, Billy said he had just moved to Dubai to coach kids' football and was arrested when he went to get something from his car.
“They jumped out to arrest me, handcuffed me. One officer jumped out and pointed a Taser at me, threatening to use it if I didn’t cooperate,” he said.
“They demanded to show them where the drugs are. I was shocked, scared and confused. I told them I wasn’t aware or in possession of any drugs or substances.”
The police had told Billy they were interested in him because of something they had seen on social media.
Convinced they had the wrong man, Billy allowed officers to search his apartment and car and submitted to a voluntary drugs test which came back negative.
There is zero tolerance for drug-related offences in the UAE.
The penalties for trafficking, smuggling and possession of even tiny amounts of drugs are severe.
Sentences for drug trafficking can include the death penalty and possession of even the smallest amount of illegal drugs can lead to a minimum four-year jail sentence.
Billy's family has set up a GoFundMe page which has so far raised over £17,000.
Traveling Grandmother Jailed for CBD Oil: ‘I Slept on the Floor… Next to the Toilet’
A trip to Oregon with a stop at DFW Airport ended with a woman spending two nights in jail
By Scott Friedman and Jack Douglas Jr. • Published on May 21, 2019 at 4:57 pm
What to Know
- Traveling with CBD oil or hemp-based derivatives could you get arrested at the airport.
- While CBD does not contain enough THC to give anyone a high, it can be enough to test positive.
- With CBD laws differing state-to-state, including in Texas, travelers face a confusing patchwork of enforcement.
Lena Bartula, at age 71, is an accomplished artist and proud grandmother who had an unsettling experience as she passed through North Texas on her way to visit her granddaughter in Oregon.
In fact, a nightmare, she said, would be a better description for when police officers slapped handcuffs on her at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after they found cannabidiol (CBD) oil in her travel bag.
The Fort Worth native, who now lives in an artist community in Mexico, was told she was under arrest.
“I think I almost laughed out loud, because I thought that couldn’t really be,” Bartula said in a Skype interview with NBC 5 Investigates.
She realized it was no laughing matter when, handcuffed, she was driven to the DFW Airport Jail where, “I slept on the floor, my head next to the toilet.”
It was a far cry from the peaceful, picturesque community in Mexico where Bartula runs a popular gallery.
And it only got worse the next day — she said her arms and legs were shackled, and she was moved to the Tarrant County Jail in Fort Worth to spend another night behind bars, then facing a felony drug charge.
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“I had no idea what would happen to me,” Bartula recalled.
A year ago, arrests for CBD at the airport were “almost non-existent,” said Cleatus Hunt Jr., area port director for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at DFW.
“But in the last six months, the interception rate for that has skyrocketed,” Hunt said.
Attorneys for the CBD industry said federal authorities have no right to detain someone with the product. They argue that hemp-made CBD was legalized in December with the passage of the federal farm bill.
But customs officials said they were still in the process of implementing the new federal rules so, for now, products with THC are still prohibited at ports of entry, such as the one at DFW Airport.
As a rule, if federal authorities detect THC, they notify the airport police who likely will make an arrest, because state law prohibits CBD oil with any amount of THC in it.
CBD oil has become a health craze, both in Texas and across the country, with users saying it does such things as ease their anxiety and soothe their aches and pains.
For Bartula, she said it was those aches and pains — so common as the years add up — that caused her to use CBD for relief.
Her case was dropped, when a Tarrant County grand jury declined to move the case forward.
Still, those nights in jail have convinced her to never again pack CBD in a suitcase when she travels — a bit of advice she’s quick to give to her friends.
“I have warned everyone I know, because most people my age, with my kinds of aches and pains, do take this,” said Bartula. “They rely on it.”