South Florida man jailed in Middle East over prescription pain pills

(WSVN) - A South Florida man is currently locked up in the Middle East. He traveled there for work, but soon after stepping off the plane, his family says, he was jailed. 7’s Brian Entin has this 7News Investigation.

About 7,800 miles from her Coconut Grove home, Nicole Denil’s brother sits in a Middle East prison cell.

Nicole Denil: “Oh, it is a nightmare.”

Two months ago, Matthew Gonzales landed in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. He was sent there by his South Florida employer to do wiring on a cruise ship.

Nicole Denil: “He was simply just passing through to get on the ship, to go away for about six weeks to do his job.”

Matthew was traveling with pain pills prescribed by his doctor for a dislocated shoulder.

Nicole Denil: “He had it in a prescription bottle, but he didn’t have his prescription with him. So that is illegal.”

In the United Arab Emirates, you’re required to have your prescription with you and to register medicine before entering the country.

Nicole Denil: “He had texted just before they detained him and said, ‘Hey, I think I’m getting detained.'”

That was 65 days ago. Since then, Nicole has flown back and forth between Miami and the Middle East, desperately trying to free her brother.

Nicole Denil: “I wish I could understand what is happening in the courthouse because it is all in Arabic. And he doesn’t know what is happening, either.”

This is Nicole — totally covered for court.

She’s only allowed brief visits to the prison, and she has spent thousands of dollars on lawyers.

Nicole Denil: “Totally scary. Every time I go, I think I am going to get detained for something, too.”

Nicole brought Matthew’s prescription to the judge, proving the medicine was for him, but he is still facing a two-year sentence.

President Trump met with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi last month.

Matthew’s family hopes the Trump administration will help free him.

Nicole Denil: “Which is the only person who can say, ‘We’re going to pardon this guy because he is innocent.'”

Matthew’s employer at Waveguide Communications in Coral Springs sent 7News a statement saying it “…Hopes for an expeditious and fair resolution for Mr. Gonzales and his family.”

Nicole Denil: “The last time I talked to him, he said, ‘I am unraveling. The jail in my mind is worse than the physical jail here.'”

Matthew’s sister is in contact with senators and the state department.

Unless someone intervenes, Matthew will miss his mother’s funeral next week.

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