Author: Joey Smirnov

What to do when you’re arrested in UAE

What to do when you’re arrested in the UAE

  1. Try and stay calm, say as little as possible without getting advice from a lawyer whom you trust, and don’t demand your rights if you don’t know what they are. For relatively minor offences, a polite attitude is more likely to smooth the way for you than being abrasive and arrogant. That’s probably true anywhere, but it seems to be especially the case in the UAE. For more severe offences, your attitude probably won’t make as much difference.

2. Don’t offer bribes

3. Contact a lawyer

4. Contact, , your embassy or consulate. The diplomats won’t do much, if anything, to get you out of jail or come to your defence, but they can sometimes visit you, should be able to supply a list of lawyers, and might help with communication channels to family back home.
In the UAE, guilt or innocence, and punishment, is decided by a judge, not a jury. So the potential for personal bias influencing the outcome is much greater than with a jury system. Finding a lawyer with more wasta is probably useful.
If you have been detained at a police station, you might be released pending a trial if you can deposit your passport with the police, or if a friend will deposit their passport as a guarantee. Note that if you deposit your passport for a friend who has been detained, and they do a runner, then you will be in a sticky situation to say the least. You probably won’t be arrested but you will be stuck in the UAE until you get your passport back, which could take a long time. This has happened occasionally.Most police in Dubai will speak a degree of English but are unlikely to be fluent to the same degree as a native English speaker.

5. Try to avoid admitting to anything, or signing any documents that you don’t understand. At least not until someone you trust has explained them to you.

Contact Stirling Haigh as we can help you with your needs when you’re in trouble

Ten things you can’t do in Dubai

Most people know Dubai is tough on drugs; that tourists can get in trouble for drinking alcohol outside designated areas; and people who have sex in public can find themselves facing the full force of the law.
There are some other unpredictable ways of falling foul of the law in Dubai – even if the authorities rarely enforce some of the laws.

Social media

Whatsapp and Facebook icon

Scott Richards promoted a charity drive to buy blankets and tarpaulins for refugees in Afghanistan. He was held for 22 days and has now been charged with fundraising without permission.

However, he is not the first foreigner to find themselves in trouble over entries on social media.

People have been warned to be careful how they use social media following the introduction of a strict cybercrimes law in 2012.

The following year, an American was jailed for making a spoof video about Dubai youth culture.

Also in 2013, police in Dubai arrested a man who filmed an incident in which a government official attacked an Indian van driver. The man was arrested for sharing footage of a crime, after his video was posted on YouTube. Charges were eventually dropped.


Dubai is very conservative when it comes to bad language. Swearing, profanities, insults and “all kind of vulgar language” are considered obscene acts – as is making rude gestures – and offenders can be fined or jailed.

In June, one local website reported that a court had ordered the retrial of a man convicted of swearing at a colleague in a WhatsApp message.

Holding hands

People holding hands

The UK Foreign Office’s advice to British travellers states that kissing and hugging in public are strictly prohibited. The UK Foreign Office says married couples holding hands “is tolerated”, but suggests all open displays of affection are “generally not tolerated”.

Allegations of rape

Rape is illegal in Dubai of course. However, alleged victims have also occasionally found themselves facing arrest.

In 2013, Norwegian woman Marte Deborah Dalelv said she had been raped by a colleague while on a business trip in Dubai. She reported the attack to the police, but was charged with having extra-marital sex, drinking alcohol illegally and perjury after prosecutors dismissed her rape allegation.

She was given a 16-month prison sentence – but was later pardoned and told she was free to leave the country

Ms Dalelv said her attacker was given a 13-month jail sentence for extra-marital sex and illegal alcohol consumption.


Dubai has bars and nightclubs, but the Foreign Office says you should not dance in public. “Dancing is allowed in the privacy of your home or at licensed clubs,” the advice says. The Dubai Code of Conduct says dancing and loud music is forbidden in public places, such as beaches, parks and residential areas. It is classed as “indecent and provocative”, the FCO adds.

Sharing a hotel room

It is against Dubai law to live together, or to share the same hotel room, with someone of the opposite sex if you aren’t married or closely related, according to Foreign Office guidance. So, in theory, any unmarried couple staying in a hotel room together is breaking the law, although tourists are rarely prosecuted.

Photographing women

Mall in Dubai

Taking pictures of women in public without consent is “strictly frowned upon”, as is randomly addressing women in public, the Foreign Office states. Showing any disrespect towards religious beliefs or practices is considered deeply offensive and very likely to result in a heavy fine or imprisonment.


Non-repayment of debt is a criminal offence and can get people sent straight to jail. Having a cheque bounce and not paying bills – including a hotel bill – can also result in imprisonment.


Unsurprisingly drugs are strictly illegal in Dubai. However, the Foreign Office says authorities are also likely to prosecute if they find traces of illegal drugs in someone’s blood or urine.

In 2008, British tourist Keith Brown was sentenced to four years in prison after Dubai customs officers found a speck of cannabis weighing just 0.003g, stuck to his shoe – although he was reportedly freed a few weeks later.


Prescription pills

Bringing some medicines into the country is also forbidden, including some containing psychotropic substances. The Foreign Office says if you are using prescribed drugs it is advisable to carry a doctor’s note and you may need to seek prior agreement from the authorities.


“Ten Things You Can’t Do in Dubai.” BBC News, BBC, 19 Aug. 2016,

British man jailed for touching man’s hip in Dubai freed

A British man who was sentenced to three months in prison in Dubai for touching a man’s hip in a bar has been freed, according to his representatives.

Jamie Harron, from Stirling, was arrested in July over the incident in which he said he put his hand on a man’s hip to avoid spilling a drink in a crowded bar.

The 27-year-old electrician had been working in Afghanistan and was on a two-day stopover in the United Arab Emirates at the time.

After his arrest for public indecency he lost his job and was told he could face up to three years in jail.

Radha Stirling, a managing partner of  Stirling Haigh said Mr Harron was sentenced to three months imprisonment in court on Sunday, but has now had his passport returned to him after ruler of the emirate, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, made a special order for the case against Mr Harron to be dismissed.

Radha Stirling, said: “We wish to express our deepest gratitude to Sheikh Mohammed for his personal intervention in this case, and for exonerating Jamie at long last.

“This was a courageous and honourable decision on the part of Sheikh Mohammed, and while it highlights the urgent need for judicial reform in the country, it is also a hopeful sign that the United Arab Emirate’s leadership possesses the will and vision to pursue such reforms in the future.”

Prior to Mr Harron’s sentencing on Sunday, he had already been sentenced in absentia to 30 days in prison for failing to appear at a court hearing for making a rude gesture and drinking alcohol during the same July incident.

He was initially jailed for five days and then released on bail with his passport confiscated.

“British Man Jailed for Touching Man’s Hip in Dubai Freed, Campaigners Say.” ITV News,

British tourist Jamie Harron sentenced to three months ‘for accidentally touching a man’s hip’ in bar

British tourist Jamie Harron has been sentenced to jail in Dubai.

He faces three months in prison but his lawyers plan to appeal.

Mr Harron, from Stirling, Scotland, was “angry, disappointed, and dreads what may happen next”.

He is not being held in custody while the appeal is considered, according to managing partner of StirlingHaigh Radha Stirling.

But his passport has been confiscated and he cannot leave Dubai.

The 27-year-old electrician was on a stopover in the Gulf city state when he brushed past a man in a bar.

Mr Harron is said to have been holding a drink, moving through a crowded bar and held a hand in front of him to avoid spilling it on himself or others. He then “touched a man on his hip to avoid impact”.

He was later arrested for public indecency.

Ms Stirling said: “Now Jamie has been sentenced to three months; there is no telling whether a judgement on appeal will be better or worse. He has already suffered tremendously as a result of these allegations, and now faces the likelihood of incarceration.
“His family was unable to visit him during this critical time because they faced a very real risk of imprisonment themselves under the UAE’s cyber crime laws which forbid criticism of the government.
“At this point, Jamie will definitely be pursuing civil action against his accusers when he does eventually return home, as it appears that he will not be able to find justice in the UAE.”
She added: “He feels betrayed and exploited by the system, which did not investigate the reports of key witnesses in his defence and led him to believe that the case would be dropped.”

Worley, Will. “Dubai: British Tourist Jamie Harron Sentenced to Three Months ‘for Accidentally Touching a Man’s Hip’ in Bar.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 22 Oct. 2017,

Stirling Haigh UAE Criminal Law Advisory, tell parents they are at risk of getting arrested if they visit the charged scot

Jamie Harron, 27, has been stuck in Dubai following allegations of touching a German businessman in a crowded bar in July. He is facing three years in a UAE prison if found guilty when he appears in court. His parents, from Stirling, Scotland, now want to visit their son in Dubai but have been warned they could be jailed for speaking out against the government. Radha Stirling, managing partner of StirlingHaigh who is representing Mr Harron, has advised them they are at risk of being charged under the UAE’s Cybercrime Laws. Ms Stirling said: “Jamie’s parents want to visit him during this difficult time. “I have advised them that they are at risk of being charged under the UAE’s Cybercrime Laws for speaking negatively about the regime and that the coverage of this case should offer them some protection.

“But technically, they could be jailed for this crime.” Criticising the UAE government, companies or individuals, or related to incidents in the UAE may be considered a crime punishable under UAE law. And there have been cases of individuals being detained, prosecuted and convicted.

Forbes, Ellie. “Parents Face Jail for Visiting Scot Charged in Dubai.” News, The Scotsman, 18 Oct. 2017,

Stirling Haigh are preparing a class action against UK government

.Detained in Dubai, a non-profit organisation and StirlingHaigh  formed to assist people who have become victims of injustice in the UAE, has said the UK Government has: “failed to give sufficient warning to UK nationals travelling to the Sharia governed desert state, it [the Government] has failed to respond to requests for help for British citizens who fall foul of the strict laws, and when it does respond, it takes almost no action on behalf of its citizens.”
A number of cases of UK nationals who Detained in Dubai say have suffered legal abuse abroad, have been reviewed by Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai and managing partner at Stirling Haigh, and the Queen’s Counsel. Statements so far, say the non-profit organisation, have included everything from small debt cases, wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and detention without charges, to large commercial cases.
Detained in Dubai say that the UK Government is not failing to enforce a 2009 treaty between the UK and UAE which helps to protect UK businesses in the UAE and Dubai. Breaches of this treaty have ‘left UK businessmen and private individuals flailing as Emirati companies are allowed to steal from UK businessmen with impunity’, according to Detained in Dubai.

christian.northwood. “UK Government Failing Citizens in UAE.” International Travel & Health Insurance Journal, 17 Oct. 2017,

Stirling Haigh helps secure the release of An Edinburgh man

William Barclay had been accused of trying to exchange a fake £20 note during a family holiday.

Although the incident happened last September and was resolved, he was arrested again over the matter during another holiday to the area last month.

He arrived in Glasgow at 20:00 to be met by his partner Monique.

Mr Barclay then travelled to his home in Edinburgh to see his children “and have some good food”.

“The worst part was obviously prison, being locked up and away from your family.

“I couldn’t go back to that country, not after the way they’ve treated me. After the second time, what they’ve done to me is horrendous.”

The charity Detained in Dubai, and law firm Stirling Haigh who fought for Mr Barclay’s release, escorted to his Emirates flight late on Wednesday

Mr Barclay was stopped at Dubai International Airport in September last year

Mr Barclay was quizzed by detectives for 12 hours after trying to exchange money at the Al Hamra Mall in Ras Al Khaimah in 2016.

He was accused of being in possession of counterfeit cash but was then told no charges would be brought and was allowed to continue his family holiday.

On returning to Dubai on 15 September this year, with his wife and two children, Mr Barclay was stopped at the airport and detained again.

Radha Stirling, of Detained in Dubai, and managing partner of Stirling Haigh, who represented Mr Barclay, said that without international support and publicity, he could have been held for many months, if not years, which has been the case with other British nationals.

Mr Barclay said: “I was just glad to get out, see my family – that was the most important thing.

“I didn’t know if my family was safe, I didn’t know if they made (it to) the hotel. Nobody would let me call them.

“You’re in a prison there for three or four days, you don’t know if you’re going to get out.”On Wednesday, it was confirmed the case against him had been dropped and he would be able to return home.

The father-of-two maintains his innocence and says he has no idea how he came into possession of the counterfeit cash.

He also criticised how the UK embassy handled the situation, claiming he had no help.

Mr Barclay said: “I don’t know what a fake note looks like, that’s the truth.

“The (UK) embassy did nothing for me. The government over there only started helping me last night because of Radha Stirling’s work.

“If it wasn’t for the press, I wouldn’t be back today.”

“Fake Banknote Man Flies Home for Family Reunion ‘and Some Good Food’.” BBC News, BBC, 5 Oct. 2017,

Stirling Haigh assisting Jamil Ahmed Mukadam after arrest for road rage.

A British IT worker says he faces a possible six-month term in a Dubai prison for sticking his middle finger up at another driver during a road now 

Jamil Ahmed Mukadam, 23, made the rude gesture as he made his way to the airport in a hire car after a holiday in the Gulf state with his wife in February.

When he returned to the oil-rich emirate on 10 September he was arrested at immigration control and initially held in a police cell with criminals including rapists and murderers, he told The Sun.

He told the newspaper: “It’s the kind of thing that happens in England all the time. You don’t go to jail for it.

“When I came back last week for a holiday with my wife I went through passport control in Dubai and when they took a scan it started beeping loudly.

“Within seconds I was surrounded by police and taken off to jail.”

​Radha Stirling of law firm Stirling Haigh, who is assisting Mr Mukadam via the Detained in Dubai organisation, told The Sun offensive or insulting behaviour was illegal there.

She added: “We have dealt with a number of cases where traffic frustration has led to detention.

“We caution visitors and expats that they could face criminal charges for behaviour that would be common in their own countries.

“We hope that the courts in Dubai are lenient with their sentencing and issue a fine at worst.”

Mr Mukadam is the latest Briton to fall foul of the law in Dubai.

In May 2011 top UK surgeon Joseph Nunoo-Mensah was detained in Dubai after being accused of a making a rude gesture at another driver through the window of his car.

The consultant colorectal surgeon at King’s College Hospital – who said he merely raised his hand – had his passport confiscated when he was charged with “public indecency”. He was later released after paying a fine.

She added: “We have dealt with a number of cases where traffic frustration has led to detention.

“We caution visitors and expats that they could face criminal charges for behaviour that would be common in their own countries.

“We hope that the courts in Dubai are lenient with their sentencing and issue a fine at worst.”

Mr Mukadam is the latest Briton to fall foul of the law in Dubai.

In May 2011 top UK surgeon Joseph Nunoo-Mensah was detained in Dubai after being accused of a making a rude gesture at another driver through the window of his car.

The consultant colorectal surgeon at King’s College Hospital – who said he merely raised his hand – had his passport confiscated when he was charged with “public indecency”. He was later released after paying a fine

angencies, Staff and. “British IT Worker ‘Facing Six Months in Prison’ in Dubai for Giving Fellow Driver the Finger.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 21 Sept. 2017,

Stirling Haigh Criminal Law Advisory helps secure the release of Abu Dhabi Transgender pair


A transgender Singaporean and her friend facing a year in prison in the United Arab Emirates for dressing in a feminine way have seen their sentences reduced to a fine and deportation, an official said Monday.

Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, a transgender woman who has not undergone a sex-change operation, and her friend, freelance fashion photographer Muhammad Fadli Bin Abdul Rahman, will pay a fine of 10,000 dirhams – about $2,270 – and be immediately deported, the official said.

A separate report on Monday in The National, a state-linked newspaper in Abu Dhabi, quoted an unnamed official as also saying the two would merely face a fine and deportation.

Their families and the Singaporean Embassy in Abu Dhabi declined to comment.

The two Singaporeans were arrested in Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates, on Aug. 9. Police stopped them at Yas Mall as they tried to eat at a food court, said Radha Stirling, CEO of the advocacy group Detained in Dubai, and managing partner of StirlingHaigh

Abu Dhabi advertises itself as a tourism destination and is home to the long-haul air carrier Etihad Airways. However, the emirate bordering Saudi Arabia is more conservative than Dubai, the UAE’s commercial heart.

Even trips to Dubai can pose risks to LGBT travelers and others as laws sometimes contradict social attitudes.

Alcohol possession for foreigners is technically illegal without a government-issued license obtainable only after gaining their employer’s permission, though liquor and beer is widely available in bars and clubs in both cities. Foreigners also have faced charges in the past for having sex outside of marriage.

Press, Associated. “UAE Prison Time Dropped for Transgender Singaporean, Friend.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 28 Aug. 2017,


Singaporean man and trans woman sentenced to a year in jail each for ‘wearing women’s clothes in public’ in Abu Dhabi

A pair of Singaporean citizens have been arrested, charged and sentenced to one year in jail in Abu Dhabi for “wearing women’s clothes in public”, according to various media reports.

Radha Stirling managing partner of StirlingHaigh and founder and CEO of not-for-profit organisation Detained in Dubai first reported about the case, in which 26-year-old Muhammad Fadli Bin Abdul Rahman and 37-year-old Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim were arrested on Aug 9, a day after they landed in the United Arab Emirates capital. Eleven days later, they were sentenced, despite having no legal representation.

An official court document stated that the two were caught “cross-dressing”, and for behaving indecently. Qistina is in the process of transitioning into a woman and had changed her name, but her gender is still stated as “male” on her passport. Cross-dressing, transgenderism and homosexuality are crimes in the UAE — if Qistina had been a post-op trans woman, the authorities would likely have had no rationale for the arrest. It is believed that the two Singaporeans were unaware of the strict laws regarding the “impersonation” of women. Both had been in the country to work on a photo shoot — Fadli is a freelance fashion photographer. The two were nabbed at a shopping mall.

According to a Straits Time report, Qistina had actually gone on holiday in the UAE four times before, and came home safely each time. As for Fadli, his brother mentioned that he had sent a selfie of himself wearing a “normal white shirt” just before he was arrested.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) had informed their families about the arrests last week, and were only told about the prison sentence on Sunday. Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has personally assured the families that they’re assisting the Singaporean duo as best as they can.

What’s even more outrageous is the fact that the two were not represented by lawyers in court. They can however file an appeal 15 days after the judgement, which will be on Sept 4.

 David Haigh of UAE legal advisory firm Stirling Haigh called for clearer definition and application of the law — strict regulations and punishments exist despite the overt existence of gay and transgender communities and venues throughout the region.

“I call upon the UAE authorities to immediately release our clients and return them to their home,” he said.

CoconutsSingapore. “Singaporean Man and Trans Woman Sentenced to a Year in Jail Each for ‘Wearing Women’s Clothes in Public’ | Coconuts Singapore.” Coconuts, 24 Aug. 2017,