msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 4/14/2011 8:15:53 PM ET 2011-04-15T00:15:53

Britain is demanding a full investigation after one of its citizens was allegedly beaten to death while in the custody of Dubai police, who deny the claim.

Lee Brown, 39, suffocated on his own vomit while being held for allegedly trying to throw a maid from Dubai's iconic Burj Al Arab luxury hotel, Dubai authorities said Thursday.

A statement by the Dubai Public Prosecutor's office said Brown was arrested for allegedly assaulting the hotel worker and trying to hurl her from the sixth floor of the sail-shaped hotel, which bills itself as a "seven-star" haven for guests who often include celebrities and royalty.

The prosecutor's report also said traces of hashish were found in his urine samples.

A report in Dubai's 7 Days newspaper said Brown was arrested last week and was facing charges of "intimidating behavior" and "use of abusive language."

Brown, who ran a maintenance business, flew to Dubai on his own for a last-minute vacation, his family told London's Daily Mail. Brown's sister said a fellow inmate called to tell them Brown had been attacked.

British Embassy spokeswoman Ruzina Hasan said the diplomatic mission has been in close contact with Dubai police during the investigation into the death, but gave no other details.

The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi quoted an anonymous police official calling the allegations of abuse "a pack of lies" and that Brown's body had no bruises or marks indicating an assault.

Brown's sister said an inmate called her to say her brother was "badly beaten up" by police, bundled into a body bag and dragged out of the building, London's Daily Mail reported.

During Brown's six days in Bur Dubai police station, guards refused to give him enough food and water and did not let him see a lawyer, the inmate told Brown's sister, who did not want to be named.

The prisoner found her phone number on a photocopy of her brother’s passport, which had been left behind in the cell, the Daily Mail said.

An official from the British Embassy in Dubai went to visit Brown but was turned away as Brown "declined consular assistance," the newspaper said.

A source told the Daily Mail, "He suffered a really bad beating which must have caused some terrible internal injuries. The poor bloke stood no chance at all. At one stage he was thrown against the concrete wall of a cell and landed badly. Then the guards tried to hush it up and pretend nothing had happened."

Brown's east London family was told of his death Tuesday.

Amnesty International and a Dubai detainee-rights group also have called for an investigation.

The case adds to the list of headline-grabbing incidents involving Britons arrested in Dubai, home to a significant British resident population and a popular vacation spot. Last year, a British couple was sentenced to a month in jail for passionately kissing in public. In 2008, two Britons accused of having sex on the beach were ordered to spend three months in jail, but the sentences were later suspended.

Beatings, starvation, rape and the force-feeding of drugs is common at Bur Dubai police station, the Daily Mail said.

Human rights groups say police regularly refuse to allow inmates to make phone calls or access lawyers, the Daily Mail reported. Prisoners are sometimes beaten and coerced into signing confessions written in Arabic, it said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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