US man jailed in UAE for 2 months over prescription painkillers released

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A US man who has been held in Abu Dhabi against his will for the last nine weeks is finally returning home.

Matthew Gonzalez, an American visiting the UAE, has been behind bars for more than two months for bringing his prescribed painkillers into the country without documentation.

Gonzalez’s family hoped to have him home by Sunday for his mother’s funeral in Milwaukee. That wish is now coming true, after he was released Friday morning and is on his way home.

Nicole Denil, Matthew’s sister, has been traveling back and forth from her home in the US to Abu Dhabi to try and free her brother. “Totally scary,” she said. “Every time I go in, I think maybe I’m going to get detained for something, too.”

Denil even brought Matthew’s prescription to a 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.”

Thursday morning, Gonzalez’s family said they finally got the call they had been waiting for from the embassy of Abu Dhabi. “They said, ‘Yes, he is in the deportation facility, and he’ll be on a plane today,’” said Denil.


7News spoke with Denil, Friday morning, as she headed to the airport in Chicago to pick up her brother. “I am absolutely ecstatic,” she said. “I feel like I wanna pinch myself. It was, you know, a surprise.”

Denil told 7News that she recently spoke to her brother from London, and when asked how it felt, Gonzalez said it felt surreal.

The family spent nearly $100,000 on legal fees and trips back and forth to the Arab country. However, they said they are just elated that he will be landing in Chicago, Friday, and will be able to attend his mother’s funeral in Wisconsin.

“It’s a miracle that he’s gonna be here for that,” said Denil. “One day he’s arriving, one day before the memorial.”

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