MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The family of a South Florida man imprisoned in the Middle East for over two months is desperately fighting for his release.
Matthew Gonzalez, a musician and part-time information technology worker, was detained in Abu Dhabi on Easter Sunday.
His family says Gonzalez had prescription pain medication but did not have the prescription with him as required by law.
“He is in a cell with 17 others. There are only seven beds, so often he sleeps on the floor,” says his sister Nicole Denil, who lives in Coconut Grove
Denil has traveled from Miami to Abu Dhabi several times and presented the valid prescription to a judge, but she says her brother was still sentenced to two years in prison.
“The last time I spoke to him he said I’m becoming unraveled. I don’t know what’s going on,” she said.
Gonzalez was in Abu Dhabi working for a Coral Springs technology company when he was detained.
He was scheduled to board a cruise ship and work on providing cable and wire services.
His company in Coral Springs released a statement, which reads, in part:
“Waveguide Communications hopes for an expeditious and fair resolution for Mr. Gonzalez and his family.”
The family is working through the State Department and appealing to President Donald Trump, who recently met with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
“I’m hoping there is going to be a resolution,” said Denil.
“If anybody in Congress, any politician really believed in the true spirit of America, then we need to get him out,” said Gonzales’s nephew, Sebastian Mallens. “I mean Abu Dhabi has no right to keep him there.”
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told CBS4 Gonzalez’s plight is a reminder to travelers to become familiar with the laws when going to the Middle East.
“I’m contacting the ambassador in Washington. I don’t know the full story but it is troubling to be detained in this way,” she said.
Gonzalez already missed a family member’s wedding.
And unless a miracle happens, he won’t be home to see his mother laid to rest. She will be buried this weekend in Wisconsin.