A British woman is facing two years in jail in Dubai after her Ukrainian flatmate reported her to police for saying ‘f*** you’ in a Whatsapp row about table manners.
The woman, 31 and a human resources manager from Gloucestershire, made the comment in October amid an argument over who used the dining table for work during lockdown.
The woman had previously lived trouble free in Dubai since 2018.
She had decided to return home permanently to be close to her family and start a new job.
However, she was barred from leaving Dubai and hauled off a flight home to the UK on Saturday.
The Briton had already shipped her belongings home and was securing herself a seat on one of the limited flights when she was pulled aside by airport authorities.
She was then told she could not leave and that there was a police case against her.
The woman had previously lived trouble free in Dubai since 2018 but is now facing a criminal case (stock photo)
After being shuffled between police stations, she discovered that her flatmate had lodged a police complaint against her over the argument, claiming she had felt offended.
She now faces jail or a hefty fine as the flatmate refuses to withdraw the complaint.
The woman told the Sun: ‘I can’t believe what my flatmate has done — she has been so spiteful.
‘I pleaded with her to withdraw the complaint but she said, ‘This is a criminal case’.
Speaking today to Detained In Dubai, she added: ‘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, who is representing the woman, cautioned visitors to the Emirates in a statement issued today.
She discovered that her flatmate had lodged a police complaint against her over the argument, claiming she had felt offended. She now faces jail or a hefty fine as the flatmate refuses to withdraw the complaint (stock photo)
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, vindictive and spiteful individuals and provocateurs to hold jail cards over people they interact with, and they don’t even need to know them.
‘Complete strangers are able to report social media comments they find offensive to the authorities and under the laws, they will be prosecuted, fined and even imprisoned.’
‘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.’