MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A man from Miami who was held for days in Abu Dhabi is back with his loved ones in South Florida.
Matthew Gonzalez returned to Miami Wednesday night for the first time since the whole ordeal and is talking about it.
“There was a room pretty close where they would take people to torture confessions out of them, and you could hear the screams, and I was like, now this is serious,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, who works in information technology, was detained in Abu Dhabi because he didn’t have a prescription in hand for his pain medication. He was held for 9 weeks in a concrete prison and in deplorable conditions.
“Concrete, that’s it. You sit on it, you sleep on it, the food is terrible, there’s no toilet paper, the insects are everywhere. I woke up the first night with a giant rat on my forehead,” said Gonzalez.
He was kept largely incommunicado.
“I wasn’t allowed to make a phone call for three weeks. I was in prison for three weeks before I made a phone call,” said Gonzalez.
Meantime, his sister, Nicole Denil said she was working to help get him out. She traveled to Abu Dhabi several times and provided the documents that showed Gonzalez had a valid prescription, but he was still sentenced to two years in prison.
She says she felt helpless at one point.
“Every time I left, I felt like I’m leaving my baby brother behind in a jail in the desert of Abu Dhabi, and I’m not taking him home with me this time,” said Denil.
To make it worse, while he was detained overseas, Gonzalez’s mother passed away.
His family contacted politicians hoping they could help bring Gonzalez home and he was finally released.
He was taken from his cell to the airport.
“They marched me right through security. I was in shackles until I was on the plane,” said Gonzalez.
While he is free now, he says there are things that will last him a lifetime.
“Of course, every fiber of my being is happy to not be there anymore, but a lot of it stays with you. I have pretty bad nightmares that come and go,” said Gonzalez.