A British woman is being held in Dubai after her roommate went to the police over a single swear word broadcast in a message during a lockdown series.
The woman in her thirties had contacted her roommate about plans to use the dining table from home months ago.
The discussion then escalated and the HR manager used a single swear word on WhatsApp – before forgetting the argument.
But the series reappeared when the woman recently tried to leave Dubai, where she has lived without any problems since 2018, to resume her life in England.
She had already shipped her things overseas and was at the airport when she was pulled aside by the authorities – and said she was not allowed to go because of a police case against her.
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The woman has since discovered that her roommate has made allegations against her and she is currently under investigation over the strict cybercrime laws in Dubai.
Speaking to the aid organization detained in Dubai today, she said: “I never expected a European to take advantage of the UAE’s strict laws.
” We shared an apartment and we were all casual.
“I’ve never been in trouble in my life and I am shocked that I was criminalized for having a private WhatsApp exchange with someone I was living with.
“What’s worse, the news is from months ago, and only now, when I’ve mailed all my things, booked a flight and my visa is about to expire, will I even find out anything about this case.
“I tried asking her to drop the case, but she doesn’t seem to care about the implications of this.”
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai and Due Process International, warned visitors to the United Arab Emirates in a statement.
She said: “We support a British woman detained in Dubai over a private WhatsApp message that contained a single swear word uttered in the heat of a stressful lockdown-induced household dispute.
“The United Arab Emirates’ overarching cyber crime laws have been responsible for numerous arrests of foreigners.
“Visitors to the UAE can be arrested, detained and prosecuted for a swear word, insulting statement or derogatory comment in the heat of the moment. UAE cybercrime laws are extraterritorial, which means the statement can be made from outside the United Arab Emirates the UAE could be given up. “
“The absurdity of these laws enables husbands and wives, co-workers, friends, school children, vengeful and malicious individuals, and provocateurs to hold prison cards over people they interact with and don’t even need to know them.
“Total strangers can report social media comments that they find offensive to the authorities. Under the law, they are prosecuted, fined and even imprisoned.”
“Dubai lawsuits are lengthy and a frivolous case like this one can take months to get through the local system, resulting in an end to the suffering.
“With hotel accommodations, legal fees, and visa fines, one ridiculous charge can quickly lead to tens of thousands of pounds, loss of employment and, in the worst case scenario, jail time.
“The number of people is often unimaginable, especially when family members are separated.”