Sister of man jailed in Middle East looks to lawmakers for help

(WSVN) - He had prescription painkillers on him but not the actual prescription. In the Arab country he was visiting, that’s illegal, and it landed him behind bars. But tonight his family has hope that he will be freed. 7’s Brian Entin is live with the exclusive from the Doral office of Sen. Marco Rubio.

Matthew Gonzales has been behind bars in the Middle East for more than two months. His work trip turned into a prison sentence in the United Arab Emirates because he brought his prescribed pain pills into the country without documentation.

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

His sister, Nicole, is constantly traveling from her Coconut Grove home to Abu Dhabi to try and free her brother.

She has to cover herself from head to toe.

And now she worries time is running out because of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Nicole Denil: “Everything shuts down during Ramadan, and after the 25th, the judges go out for about 35 days after Ramadan.

The bottom line, if Matthew is not pardoned by Sunday he may be stuck in an Abu Dhabi prison for at least another month.

Nicole Denil: “What we are hoping is that we can have some sort of release before that because my mom just passed away, and her funeral is on the 25th.”

Senator Marco Rubio’s office contacted Nicole Tuesday morning and is gathering information but will only confirm “our office has been in contact with Mr. Gonzales’ family.”

Nicole Denil: “The lawyers haven’t been able to see him, so the only people, today, that have seen him in jail are myself and once the embassy went to talk to him.”

Nicole brought Matthew’s prescription to the judge in Abu Dhabi and proved the pills were for his dislocated shoulder, but the laws are strict and say people “…should not bring narcotic medicines into the country without the prior approval from the Ministry of Health.”

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

The family says they have spent close to $100,000 on legal bills as well as trips back and forth to Abu Dhabi. They are hoping Rubio will now be able to intervene and somehow free Matthew.

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