■ REVIEW: Killing Time
Is this raw and gripping account of Dubai prison

Dubai is known for its luxury and excess, but scratch the surface and you’ll find the glitzy tourist destination isn’t quite so bright and shiny.

The laws in Dubai are much more strict than in the West, and the consequences of breaking those laws can be brutal, as author and musician Karl Williams found.

Is this raw and gripping account, he tells of a holiday in Dubai with two English friends that went from fun to terrifying. They were accused of selling drugs, and subsequently arrested and tortured by police.

They protested their innocence, but those protests fell on deaf ears. The three men faced a year-long nightmare, locked up in Port Rashid, where inmates of all nationalities were crammed into stinking cells. It was a violent cesspit of a place, where a few powerful prisoners controlled the jail and unless you were in with the right people and knew how to work the system, you were pretty much up the proverbial sh*t creek.

Facing life in prison or the death penalty, Karl somehow managed to stay positive and was able to rise up through the prison pecking order by befriending local gansters, Russian mafia and other high-profile inmates.

But things went from bad to worse, and he was transferred to the notorious Central prison, where HIV positive inmates were used by gangsters to infect their enemies, and murders and rape were common.

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could possibly keep hope or a sense of humour in those circumstances, and the author struggled to stay positive. And just as he had lost all hope getting justice, Reprieve – an organisation that that defends human rights – appeared on the scene like knights in shining armour.

This is a compelling and (surprisingly) at times funny story of corruption, brutality, survival and hope that was hard to put down.

Killing Time, by Karl Williams with Justin Penrose (Macmillan, RRP $35)


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