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Ted Cruz warns UAE ‘Americans are watching’ as doctor says imprisoned US citizen has only weeks to live

A dying American who’s been jailed in Dubai for 15 years may only have a few weeks to live, according to a Houston-based doctor who reviewed his medical files, prompting Sen. Ted Cruz to warn the United Arab Emirates that “Americans are watching.”

Newly obtained medical records show Zack Shahin, a naturalized American from Texas, suffers from cardiovascular and neurological issues, thyroid, gastro and prostate illnesses as well as infections that are causing his flesh to rot, among other ailments. His family maintains Shahin’s innocence and said the U.S. State Department has taken little action.

“In summary, this patient has disease in multiple organ systems, and his long term prognosis is dire,” Dr. Sanford Lubetkin, who is board certified in internal medicine and cardiology, wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken pleading for help. “His overall health conditions are unacceptable at best.”



After reviewing the medical records, Lubetkin pleaded for the State Department to take “whatever action is necessary and appropriate” to facilitate the American’s release and warned that Shahin “could die within weeks” if nothing is done. The prisoner’s family also sent Shahin’s medical files to the State Department since, to their knowledge, officials there have never been able to obtain those records.

“We are not medical experts but it is always helpful to have a more complete picture of your father’s current health status,” the State Department wrote Tuesday in an email reviewed by Fox News. “We continue to work on your father’s case and I will be sure to circle back when I have substantive updates to share.”

The State Department did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Cruz has been in touch with the State Department and the United Arab Emirates advocating for Shahin’s release.

“It’s well past time for Zack Shahin to come home and be reunited with his family,” the Texas Republican told Fox News in a statement. “I’ve seen the reports about his health and hospitalization, and the undeniable fact is that he is getting worse, not better.” 

“This issue is no longer about alleged wrongdoings but basic humanitarian compassion,” Cruz added. “The Emirates are close and valuable allies, and Americans are watching closely to make sure they do the right thing.”


Zack Shahin still has over 40 years left on his sentence, but his family said they don't expect him to survive beyond the net few weeks. 

Zack Shahin still has over 40 years left on his sentence, but his family said they don’t expect him to survive beyond the net few weeks. 
(Courtesy of Shahin family)

Shahin headed a successful real estate development company in UAE, but he resigned in 2008 when political fallout ensued following the death of Dubai’s ruler. He was arrested soon after and was ultimately convicted of fraud, embezzlement and other financial crimes.

The big four global accounting firms audited his former company for the years the Lebanese native was CEO nd found no financial losses or evidence of the crimes he was accused of, according to Shahin’s family.

Martin Lonergan, who was detained with Shahin in 2020, previously detailed the inhumane living conditions in the UAE prison. He described his former prison mate as a “broken man” who is “rotting.” 

Shahin was transferred to a hospital in the fall. The medical files as well as his testimonial, both obtained by Fox News, show Shahin has undergone eight procedures since 2019, including a surgery in October and another in November to remove rotting flesh from pseudomonas infections.

These failed surgeries caused further complications and an infection that has spread to Shahin’s lungs, according to Lubetkin.

Zack Shahin, 58, has been illegally detained in a Dubai prison for 15 years for crimes he did not commit, his family said. 

Zack Shahin, 58, has been illegally detained in a Dubai prison for 15 years for crimes he did not commit, his family said. 
(Courtesy of the Shahin family)


Shahin has also developed a hernia that cannot be operated on due to his poor health and has coronary issues that put him at risk of a serious cardiac event, the doctor wrote in his letter to Blinken.

Additionally, Lubetkin noted that Shahin suffers from a multitude of neurological issues caused by the living conditions in prison. An Emirati neurosurgeon has recommended spinal surgery.

Due to these host of health issues, Shahin said he is prescribed 22 daily medications. But shortages prevent him from getting up to four of those at any given time.

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