A British woman in Dubai was arrested and her passport confiscated after a case was filed against her for using a slur in a WhatsApp message sent to her Ukranian flatmate. Following the incident, which took place in October, the flatmate had filed a police complaint, which the woman found only after she was removed from a flight while heading back home.
The United Arab Emirates has stringent laws on civility and social media usage. In 2016, a British-Australian citizen, Scott Richards, was jailed in the UAE for several weeks after he used his Facebook account to promote an unregistered charity. Richards was finally released following a media campaign, The Telegraph had reported.
British Woman Was Living in Dubai Since 2018
The Daily Mail reported that the British woman, whose name was not released, was a human resources manager from Gloucestershire and was living in Dubai since 2018. During lockdown the woman had a heated argument with her Ukranian flat mate over who would use the dining table for work. Later in a WhatsApp message, the British woman sent "F**k you," to her.
The outlet reported that the woman, who was permanently returning to her home, was barred from leaving Dubai and removed from a flight to UK on Saturday. Speaking to The Sun, the distressed woman said that she had already shipped her belongings home and had bought the tickets for the flight when she was pulled aside by airport authorities.
It was only after she went to a couple of police stations that she came to know about a case file against her by her former roommate claiming that she was offended by the slur used in the message.
"I can't believe what my flat mate has done â she has been so spiteful. I pleaded with her to withdraw the complaint but she said, 'This is a criminal case'. 'I tried to plead with her to drop the case, but she doesn't seem to care about the impact this is having," the woman told the outlet.
Detained in Dubai Assisting British Woman
Claiming that usage of swear word is a huge problem in UAE leading to arrest and prosecution, Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, issued a statement stating that they were assisting the British woman.
"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. 'The human toll is often unimaginable, especially when family members are separated," she was quote by Daily Mail.