Brit Who Faces Jail In Dubai For Swearing On WhatsApp Speaks Out About 'Nightmare'
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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 conversation escalated and she ended up saying 'f*** you'.
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 at the airport that she was told by authorities that she couldn't leave, as police had a case against her.
It turned out the woman is currently under investigation after her flatmate's allegations, due to Dubai's strict cyber crime laws.
Speaking to Mail Online, she said: "This is just a nightmare and the thought of losing my new job is too much.
"I've no apartment and no job and no money. My visa to stay here runs out on 12 February and the police just don't seem to understand.
"I'm banging my head against a brick wall. No one cares."
She added that she tried to get her flatmate to drop the case, but her pleading fell on deaf ears.
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.
In a statement, she said: "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."