DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A Scottish electrician named Jamie Harron, going to Dubai as a tourist, was sentenced to 3 months in jail for touching a man in a bar.
The British head of a professional soccer group, David Haigh, was ordered jailed for seven months for a tweet that he says could not have been from him — since he was already in jail without a telephone.
An Australian aid worker living in Dubai, Scott Richards, was locked up for attempting to raise funds[two] to get blankets for freezing Afghan children, since he was not element of a recognized charity.
Dubai, a single of the seven United Arab Emirates, portrays itself as welcoming to foreigners. Its boosters claim it is the fourth most-visited tourism destination in the world[three], and it has at least 12 occasions as several foreign residents as citizens.
But a legal program based on a challenging-line interpretation of Shariah law usually lands foreigners in jail for offenses that few Westerners would dream were even crimes.
Recent examples cited by lawyers incorporate holding hands in public posting praise on Facebook for a charity opposed to fox hunting drinking alcohol without a license and sharing a hotel room with a particular person of the opposite sex (other than one’s spouse).
An official video advertising tourism in Dubai.
Video by Pay a visit to Dubai
Mostly, the Dubai authorities appear the other way when it comes to such behavior by foreigners — until they don’t. Hotels do not ask couples for their marriage licenses. Dubai has a lively night life, with numerous gay bars and nightclubs where East European prostitutes openly solicit consumers.
But cohabitation is a crime, homosexuality is subject to the death penalty (although it is seldom imposed) and prostitution can be punished with lashes and even worse.
Even victims of violent crimes can be accused of morality offenses: Gay people who report assaults have been jailed along with their attackers, and girls who report getting raped can be imprisoned for adultery if they do not have four male witnesses to help their story.
Radha Stirling, a British lawyer, says she has represented hundreds of Westerners who have been jailed in Dubai for behavior that is usually permitted there.
“You go there and its facade is that all of this is legal, everyone is undertaking it, you believe it is O.K.,” stated Ms. Stirling, who runs a British-primarily based group, Detained in Dubai[four], that publicizes such situations. “But you offend someone and you’re the a single who gets it.”
Two recent situations, each handled by Ms. Stirling, have aroused widespread ire in Britain, which has a lot more nationals living in Dubai than any other Western nation.
Mr. Harron, 27, the Scottish electrician going to Dubai, was arrested and sentenced to three months in jail for public indecency for allegedly touching a man’s hip[five] as he brushed past him in a crowded bar. And a British man from Leicester, Jamil Ahmed Mukadam, 23, is facing trial for providing the middle finger to a Dubai driver who he said was tailgating him.
Mr. Mukadam, a personal computer consultant, had been in a rental auto, so it took the police a although to trace him. But six months later, in September, he was arrested at the airport upon returning to Dubai. He is now free on bail, without having his passport, awaiting trial.
He could face six months in jail if convicted of making the “obscene gesture.” Mr. Mukadam said he had typically visited Dubai with his wife and that he liked the city, especially its range of halal meals, but does not plan to return.
“No chance I’m coming back right here once again,” he mentioned. “I wouldn’t set foot right here once more, not the way I’ve been treated.”
Emiratis are mostly unapologetic about their country’s contradictions.
“Westerners’ culture differs from Arab culture,” Judge Ahmad Saif, head of the Dubai civil court, mentioned in a recent interview with The National, a newspaper based in Abu Dhabi. “In their nations, flashing your middle finger or insulting another is not acceptable but it is not punishable by the law. The culture for people living in the U.A.E. is significantly diverse. At the end of the day, we are Muslims and committing such acts is not acceptable.”
Most cases that ensnare unwary foreigners involve morality offenses. It is against the law to drink without having a license, for instance, but foreigners can only get one particular if they are residents. So any tourist who is drinking is carrying out so illegally, even in a licensed bar. Couples cannot share a area together if they are not married, even in their houses.
When Emlyn Culverwell, a 29-year-old South African, took his fiancée, Iryna Nohal, a Ukrainian, to a medical doctor in Dubai, complaining of stomach discomfort, the diagnosis was pregnancy — and the treatment was a phone contact to the police. The couple were arrested and jailed when they could not produce a marriage license.
Some Emiratis acknowledge that their laws have not kept pace with a rapidly altering society.
“It is unreasonable to anticipate a nation to warn each and every and each and every visitor about its full set of guidelines and regulations in location,” Essam Tamimi, a Dubai lawyer, stated in an e-mail. “In a quick period of time, Dubai has tremendously created and has grow to be one particular of the world’s most diverse melting pots. That getting stated, laws in basic are produced to accommodate the society’s needs and the U.A.E., like most other nations, nonetheless has some changes to make.”
Dubai officials did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
Critics complain that the Emirates’ legal system is stacked against foreigners, and each Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch[ten] have accused the country of arbitrary detention and abuse of prisoners.
Mr. Haigh, a former managing director of Leeds United Football Club and a partner in Ms. Stirling’s law firm, said he was jailed for 22 months and tortured repeatedly in an try to force him to sign a confession, but by no means managed to see a copy of the charges to which he was supposed to confess.
Mr. Haigh had gotten into a business dispute with a Dubai bank, GFH Capital, that owned a stake in the team. He mentioned he was tricked into coming to Dubai to resolve their differences, then jailed on arrival for breach of trust and held for numerous months with no being permitted to see a lawyer.
Even though in jail, he was charged with posting an offensive Twitter message, though he says he had no phone or world wide web access. For that, his sentence was elevated by seven months. He was ultimately acquitted of the Twitter charge, but not till he had served one more seven months on best of his original 15 month sentence.
“Ninety % of the population are breaking the law 90 % of the time and no 1 does anything against them till they upset the wrong person and they get arrested,” Mr. Haigh mentioned of Dubai.
In current years, the United Arab Emirates has cracked down on social media, producing it a crime to criticize the country, its citizens or businesses on Facebook or Twitter. The law has mostly been utilised to punish domestic critics, but it also swept up Ryan Pate, a helicopter mechanic from Florida, who was jailed after he unleashed a Facebook rant over a sick leave dispute with his employer, Global Aerospace Logistics, a U.A.E. business.
Ryan Pate, who was accused of cyber slander by Abu Dhabi authorities, is back property in Tampa Bay
Video by ABC Action News
Foreign residents and vacationers encounter related troubles throughout the Emirates — Mr. Pate’s organization was primarily based in Abu Dhabi — but they are far more common in Dubai since much more Westerners reside and pay a visit to there.
Other offenses that couple of foreigners recognize can lead to jail time include passing a undesirable verify, even accidentally failing to spend a credit-card bill on time taking a photograph of an individual with out his or her permission and touching a person.
That was the accusation against Mr. Harron: that he had touched a man intimately in a public place, the Rock Bottom Cafe, a club frequented by gay guys. He says he was just pushing via a crowd and place a hand on the man’s hip to stay away from spilling his drink.
He was sentenced to three months in jail, though he was permitted to leave the country after the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, nullified the court’s ruling. Heavy publicity has usually helped resolve such circumstances, even when legally they looked hopeless.
“The U.A.E. government is just a large public relations entity,” Ms. Stirling said. “If they consider a case is going to harm them, the government will speak to the police and get the charges dropped.”
- ^ David Haigh (www.telegraph.co.uk)
- ^ locked up for trying to raise funds (gulfbusiness.com)
- ^ fourth most-visited tourism location in the planet (www.go-gulf.ae)
- ^ Detained in Dubai (www.detainedindubai.org)
- ^ touching a man’s hip (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ providing the middle finger to a Dubai driver (www.dailymail.co.uk)
- ^ said in a current interview (www.thenational.ae)
- ^ took his fiancé (www.heraldlive.co.za)
- ^ Amnesty International (www.amnesty.org)
- ^ Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org)
- ^ Leeds United Football Club (www.leedsunited.com)
- ^ charged with posting (www.hrw.org)
- ^ creating it a crime (gulfnews.com)
- ^ Ryan Pate, (www.bbc.com)
- ^ International Aerospace Logistics, (www.gal.ae)
- ^ Watch on YouTube. (www.youtube.com)
- ^ Rock Bottom Cafe (www.facebook.com)
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