Brit Faces Two Years In Dubai Jail After Sending Swear Word In WhatsApp To Housemate
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The woman, a human resources manager in her 30s, had messaged her housemate to say she planned to use the dining table when working from home, but the discussion somehow escalated and she used a swear word.
She eventually forgot about the disagreement - which happened some months ago - but the row resurfaced when she tried to leave the country to return to England.
The woman had been living in Dubai since 2018, and had already shipped her belongings back home, with her visa about to expire.
But it wasn't until she was in the airport that she was told by authorities that she couldn't leave, as police had a case against her.
It turned out that the woman is currently under investigation after her flatmate's allegations, due to Dubai's strict cyber crime laws.
The woman has tried to speak to the former housemate to get her to drop the case, but she 'doesn't seem to care'.
Speaking to aid organisation Detained In Dubai, the woman said: "I would never have expected a European to take advantage of the UAE's strict laws.
''We shared a flat and we were all casual with one another.
"I've never been in trouble in my life, and I'm shocked that I've been criminalised over a private WhatsApp exchange with someone whom I lived with.
"What's worse, the messages were from months ago and only now, when I've shipped all of my belongings, booked a flight and when my visa is about to expire, do I even find out about this case.
"I tried to plead with her to drop the case, but she doesn't seem to care about the impact this is having."
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai and Due Process International, warned visitors to the United Arab Emirates about the 'overreaching' cyber crime laws, saying in a statement: "We are assisting a British woman who has been held in Dubai over a private WhatsApp message that included a single swear word said in the heat of a stressful, lockdown-induced household dispute.
"The UAE's overreaching cybercrime laws have been responsible for numerous arrests of foreign nationals.
"Visitors to the UAE can be arrested, detained and prosecuted over a swear word, an offensive statement or derogatory comment said in the heat of the moment, and the UAE's cybercrime laws are extraterritorial, meaning that the statement could have been made from outside of the UAE.
"The absurdity of these laws allows for husbands and wives, colleagues, friends, school kids.
"Legal proceedings in Dubai are lengthy, and a frivolous case like this can take months to go through the local system, causing no end of suffering.
"With hotel accommodation, legal fees and visa overstay fines, an absurd allegation can quickly escalate into tens of thousands of pounds, loss of employment and in a worst case scenario, a prison sentence.
"The human toll is often unimaginable, especially when family members are separated."