May 8, 2009 -- A member of the royal family in the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, has been "detained" in Abu Dhabi by authorities investigating a chilling videotape that shows him torturing an Afghan grain dealer, according to officials in Washington.
UAE officials told American diplomats the Sheikh was put under "house arrest" this week and prevented from leaving the country as the UAE Ministry of Justice conducts a criminal investigation of the incidents on the videotape, the officials said.
The 45-minute torture tape, first broadcast on ABC News Nightline two weeks ago, shows the Sheikh, the brother of the UAE crown prince, beating his victim with an electric cattle prod and a wooden plank with protruding nails. Men in police uniform are seen on the tape restraining the victim, who has sand shoved down his throat and is later repeatedly run over by a Mercedes Benz SUV driven by the Sheikh.
After first insisting the case was closed and settled privately, UAE authorities reversed course. Officials told ABCNews.com that other individuals seen on the tape who worked for Sheikh Issa have also been detained in the investigation.
The detention of the Sheikh comes amid rising outrage in Congress and from human rights groups. The tape has been widely viewed internationally on ABCNews.com since the original broadcast.
"I am encouraged by this news, but I'm not yet entirely satisfied," said Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), the chairman of the House Human Rights Commission.
McGovern plans to hold hearings on the UAE human rights record next week, as Congress considers approval of a U.S. plan to provide the gulf country with fuel for nuclear power plants.
"The UAE should demonstrate that their commitment to human rights and the rule of law goes beyond detaining Sheik Issa—there should be a thorough, credible judicial proceeding," said McGovern.
Human Rights Groups Say Torture Tape is Latest Example of UAE's Mistreatment of Foreign Workers
Human rights groups maintain the videotaped incident is only the latest example of a regime that tolerates mistreatment of foreign guest workers.
"They need to address the fact that this case is not an isolated incident, but appears to be a broader pattern of police misconduct and impunity," said Sara Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.
The Sheikh's American lawyer, Daryl Bristow, of Houston, could not be reached for comment. He reportedly is en route to Abu Dhabi.