A Swedish male model and TV personality who was sentenced to 10 years in jail in Dubai for possessing cocaine has arrived home in Sweden after being pardoned by authorities.
Farzan Athari, a 31-year-old Swedish-Iranian, was originally sentenced to life in jail after he was arrested outside his home in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa on May 14, 2013 and found in possession of 21 grams of cocaine in 11 plastic pouches. His sentence was reduced to 10 years upon appeal, after he claimed the illegal drug was for personal use and was not for resale purposes.
Last year, he launched an online campaign calling for his release and has issued a song entitled ‘Save My Life’. Recorded while in prison in Dubai, the video received nearly 95,000 views on Youtube and was featured in news articles around the world.
Earlier this month, prosecutors issued a special pardon and Athari was released from prison. He arrived home to Sweden at the weekend amidst a blaze of publicity.
In a message on his official Instagram page he said: “I would like to officially thank His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and [Chief Prosecutor] Mr Sami Al Shamsi for giving me a second chance at life. I would also thank all the Swedish Press for capturing one of the most beautiful moments of my life. It’s an amazing feeling to be back home in Sweden.”
In a statement, Radha Stirling, founder of the UK-based organisation Detained in Dubai and who helped campaign for Athari’s release, said: “We are thankful for the release of Farzan Athari. His request for a pardon was granted speedily and I am certain that he is grateful. His release required an international co-ordinated effort, including a song production that attracted almost 100,000 views on YouTube.
We are often asked whether a person's financial status plays a role in their ability to be released, pardoned or have their case reviewed. In our experience and in the majority of cases, we have noted that it helps to have the support of the public and the financial backing to hire companies or individuals to support a release campaign. In Farzan's case, he was already a public figure and was able to engage support internationally and we expect that this played a role in his release. While this is obviously beneficial, we hope that people who are in less fortunate situations, can be supported to seek pardons and case reviews.”
Born in Tehran, Athari became a successful male model, appearing in magazines and campaigns such as Men’s Health, Diesel, Nivea Cream, Smirnoff, Nokia and GQ. He also famously starred in a music video by Lebanese singer Haifa Wehbe.