A man claiming to be an Oxford graduate has been sentenced to death for drug-smuggling in Egypt, in what his lawyers describe as an intricate international set-up.
Charles Raymond Ferndale, 74-year-old British pensioner, was arrested in 2011 for allegedly smuggling £2.9 million worth of drugs into Egypt aboard his yacht. He was caught with four other men along the Red Sea coast with three tons of hashish.
His death sentence was confirmed on Monday, following an earlier judgement on the 7th of April.
In Egypt, the death penalty is usually carried out by hanging.
Ferndale was accused of being a member of an “international gang”, including the other arrested men from the Republic of Seychelles and Pakistan.
However, his lawyers describe him as a “naïve” victim who had been tricked into believing he was helping an acquaintance deliver a shipment of incense. The drugs were hidden in 118 bags disguised as food supplies on Ferndale’s 21-foot yacht, named Liberty.
His lawyers say that Ferndale “feels like he is dying and is psychologically destroyed” after two years in prison.
Ferndale’s defence argued that those testifying against him were not credible, claiming that one “was giving his evidence under the agreement that he wouldn’t be prosecuted.” They also assert that this man had connections with drug barons in Pakistan.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said they were “extremely concerned” about the sentence. They commented: “We are opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. Our consular team in Cairo are in contact with the British prisoner and we will do our utmost to prevent this execution.”
Kim Manning Cooper of Amnesty International UK similarly described the sentence as “extremely worrying news.” She said the organisation “will be pressing for the sentence against Mr Ferndale and the others in this case to be commuted.”
Cooper, who campaigns against the death penalty, added: “The death penalty is cruel and unnecessary in all circumstances, but international standards clearly stipulate that capital punishment should never be imposed in non-lethal cases like this one.” She also called for Egypt to “immediately impose a complete moratorium on the death penalty.”
The sentence must now be confirmed by higher courts. In the meantime, Ferndale is expected to lodge an appeal. It may take up to two months to hear the outcome of this. If the appeal fails, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi may also be able to give clemency.
Ferndale is a keen sailor, claiming to hold degrees from the Royal College of Art, Oxford University, and the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London.
He worked as a freelance journalist for a range of British and Pakistani publications, including The Guardian and The Times. He has covered topics such as terrorism, Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, the Middle East and Afghanistan.