Friends and family are working to #FreeMatty, who is detained in Abu Dhabi

Posted at 8:33 PM, Jun 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-16 21:34:23-04

The hashtag #FreeMatty is popping up all over social media, particularly in Milwaukee. Matthew Gonzales is a beloved musician, bartender and everyman in Milwaukee. He’s stood up in 30 weddings, just one indication of how much his friends love him.

But Gonzales remains locked up in prison in the desert of Abu Dhabi. His offense? Apparently he failed to declare he was in possession of the drug Tramadol. His physician prescribed the pain killer because of chronic back and shoulder pain. Gonzales was in Abu Dhabi to board a cruise ship that needed to be equipped with reels of cable. He knew his pain would flare up without the pharmaceutical help.

Initially, Gonzales was charged with illegal possession of the drug. When, however, his sister flew to Abu Dhabi and produced the documentation showing the drug was prescribed, the charge was dropped. The judge, though, then slapped a new charge on Gonzales. He was essentially convicted of failing to declare he was in possession of the pain killer.

We spoke to Nicole Denil, Gonzales’ sister, via Skype from her Miami home. She’s made four trips to Abu Dhabi since Gonzales was initially detained at Easter. She is trying to help her brother keep the faith, but allows that is becoming difficult.

“His spirits are starting to decline,” she said with a tone of resignation. “He’s in a jail in the desert of Abu Dhabi, not knowing when he’s going to be released.”

Denil has immersed herself in a crash course regarding the Abu Dhabi legal process. She says there may be opportunities in the coming months for the Crown Prince to free her brother. She’d clearly like that to happen sooner rather than later. The next opportunity, though, may not be until late July.

The family has delayed the funeral of Matty’s mother until July 24 in hopes he’ll be able to come home and attend. Friends are also planning a fundraiser to help with the expenses of defending Gonzales. That event will take place July 25 at the Nomad World Pub on Brady Street.