American university lecturer, 62, is being ‘held hostage’ in Dubai over unpaid $70,000 debt

An American academic has been ‘held hostage’ in the Middle Eastern city state of Dubai over an unpaid debt for more than a year and suffered a stroke while behind bars, his family revealed Tuesday.

David Oliver, 62, from Cincinnati, Ohio, was stripped of his passport and thrown in a prison cell by airport guards who allegedly bragged: ‘Look, we got an American.’

The creative writing lecturer had been living in Dubai with his ex-wife, working at the American University in the emirate.

But after 20 years in the region he was locked up when he lost his job and failed to repay a $70,000 debt. The country criminalizes debt and banks and landlords can send someone to jail with a document showing a check bounced.

Oliver’s nightmare stemmed from a $70,000 debt he incurred when living in Dubai with his then wife.

He took a loan out with the Sharjah Islamic Bank in 2014, but after he lost his job following a dispute with an Emirati co-worker and his then-wife, who is originally from Iran, flew back to the U.S.

Shortly after they were back on U.S. soil she asked for a divorce so he boarded a plane back to the Middle East to seek work in Bahrain.

But he was detained during a layover in Dubai as he flew from Bahrain to Kathmandu and ordered to repay the debt – which has now reached $100,000 thanks to charges – immediately.

Oliver claims he thought his ex-wife had been paying it off through their joint bank account, but says she had stopped.

He is banned from leaving the country until he repays the loan but has been stripped of his passport and visa so he can’t get a job.

The professor was put behind bars for two months at the notorious Sharjah Jail, where he suffered a mini stroke. He was freed to a mental hospital where he lived for seven months.

Oliver was previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has suffered from depression. His family say that he is desperately in need of healthcare – and is not getting help from the U.S. government, they told

His sister Beverly Thornton, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told ‘David has already been jailed for two months, then held for another seven months in a primitive mental hospital.’

Oliver’s sister said: ‘During the time in prison he was subjected to awful violence. Another prisoner even stole his front teeth implants.

‘He is mentally ill anyway and now trying to deal with the effects of a stroke.

‘He has been told he cannot return to the USA until his debt is paid. With the crazy interest and collection agency fees, the amount claimed has risen to USD $100,000.

‘Our family doesn’t have anything like that kind of money and we have been told David will soon be sent back to prison and stay there for good, or until the debt is paid in full.

‘We miss him terribly. This is a death sentence for a mentally ill man and stroke victim.

‘I just wish our government would do something to help, but all the embassy has done is give contact details for lawyers we can’t afford.

‘It’s as though the US government was more interested in trade deals than the safety of its citizens in Dubai.’

The family has set up a Go Fund Me in the hope of being able to help.

She added: ‘He was doing very well. He was married, working hard in a good job. But the stress of all these misfortunes at once has hit him hard.

‘David has tried to take his own life before and he sounds so down that I fear for his safety again.’

According to criminal justice campaigners Oliver has had three court hearings and each time was ordered to, ‘pay the banks or go to jail.’

Radha Stirling, CEO of the British-based NGO Detained In Dubai and managing partner of Stirling Haigh who is representing Oliver, called for the UAE to reform its financial laws.

She said Oliver has ‘zero chance’ of repaying his loan, adding: ‘He took the loan in good faith, but his circumstances changed beyond his control.

‘If the UAE had operational bankruptcy laws, David would likely be home already.

‘While there has been a lot of discussion over the past few years about implementing modern bankruptcy regulations, movement so far has been ineffective.

‘Unfortunately we have many similar cases in the UAE with people who can neither pay their debts nor leave Dubai to seek employment elsewhere.’

Stirling continued: ‘We are dealing with a number of people who are looking at spending the remainder of their lives in prison.

‘Even the people currently outside of prison are not allowed to work and when whatever money they had runs out, they are forced to beg for food or rely on charity.

‘Holding a debtor hostage in the hope they have a wealthy relative to bail them out is both immoral and unfair.’

She added: ‘When I spoke to David, he had clearly been emotionally damaged by the time in prison and the separation from his family.

‘He could not see any way out but holds hope that he will be reunited with his family again soon.’

The US embassy in the UAE is yet to respond to requests for a comment., Shanti Das For. “EXCLUSIVE: American University Lecturer, 62, Is Being ‘Held Hostage’ in Dubai over Unpaid $70,000 Debt – Where Authorities Refuse to Free Him despite Suffering a STROKE in Jail.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 28 Nov. 2017,           



British woman, 21, arrested in Dubai for ‘witnessing fight’ in hotel lobby

A young British woman was arrested and is being detained in Dubai after witnessing a physical altercation in a hotel lobby.

Asa Hutchinson, 21, of Chelmsford, in Essex, was held by police after a group of her male friends took selfies with a man in his 50s who had fallen asleep on a sofa.

The man, reported to be a technology company executive, allegedly began punching the pranksters when he woke up, a number of whom suffered blows to their heads.

Ms Hutchinson claims she was not present during the incident but has been charged with assault and theft and campaigners are now warning she faces the risk of jail.

She said: “The man woke up and began punching the boys. I heard the commotion and came back to see what was going on.

“He called the police and made official complaints about the boys for taking pictures of him and for being rude.”

The men had been visiting ex-pat Asa when the incident happened nearby Dusty’s bar in the DIFC district. They have since left Dubai, allegedly leading police to charge her as if she were responsible for their actions.

Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai and managing partner of StirlingHaigh, said: “Visitors to the UAE need to be aware that justice does not operate the same way as it does in countries with mature legal systems.

“In Dubai, if two parties are in dispute or arguing, the first person to speak to the police is usually the one who is believed. Often it is a race to get to the police first.

“By making this complaint, the man may have been safeguarding himself from being charged himself.

“Also, it is clear in this case that Asa was a bystander, not involved with the fight and is only being victimised because the alleged culprits have left the country.”

Asa’s mother, Lucie, said: “You always worry about your kids, especially in these Middle Eastern countries.

“There is so much on the news about the way they treat British visitors, but Asa was having a great time.

“She loved the work and made so many friends. She is a quiet, sensible girl and really is the last person to start any trouble.”

Briton Jamie Harron was recently freed in Dubai, following a three-month imprisonment for touching a man’s hip.

The Standard has approached the Foreign Office for comment.


British Woman, 21, Arrested in Dubai for ‘Witnessing Fight’ in Hotel Lobby,                          

Tourist fined Dh10,000 and deported for ‘filming Abu Dhabi airport security’

A tourist who was arrested for allegedly using his mobile phone while going through security at Abu Dhabi International Airport was fined Dh10,000 and will be deported.

Joseph Lee, a 59-year-old American, who was arrested in the capital before Thanksgiving will be repatriated after paying his fine, officials said.

Mr Lee’s son, Jonathon, who was travelling with his father, said Joseph was filming his mistreatment by airport officials .

“I believe he began recording because they were treating him unfairly, in a rude manner, and in Abu Dhabi that’s a pretty big criminal offence and I believe that’s why he was detained,” Jonathan told local news agencies.

The two were transiting in Abu Dhabi for 11 hours after returning from a holiday together in Bangkok.

Jonathan told NBC they took a quick tour of the city before returning to the airport where they were separated as his father was selected for a secondary security screening.

Jonathan said he received a phone call from his father moments later telling him he had been arrested.

He said he expected his father to be released momentarily so he boarded a plane and returned home.

Taking photographs or filming in public places is not prohibited in public places in the UAE unless explicitly stated. However, it is forbidden to film or photograph critical installations and strategic and military locations, for instance, for security reasons. Taking photographs at airport security stations is prohibited across many countries.

Jonathon and his father had planned to spend Thanksgiving at his daughter’s home in Texas.

“We just want to let the UAE government know that there is no ill intent of my father and that we just want him back home. We want him back home safe and sound,” Jonathon said.


Nowais, Shireena Al. “Tourist Fined Dh10,000 and Deported for ‘Filming Abu Dhabi Airport Security’ .” The National, The National, 27 Nov. 2017,                          

American Man Arrested for Using Cell Phone in Security at Abu Dhabi Airport

A Plano family is desperate for information this Thanksgiving after their father was arrested thousands of miles from home.

Joseph Lee’s children say he was arrested at an airport in Abu Dhabi for one reason: he used his cell phone while going through security.

They say they haven’t heard from him since.

“I believe he began recording because they were treating him unfairly, in a rude manner, and in Abu Dhabi that’s a pretty big criminal offense and I believe that’s why he was detained,” his son Jonathan Lee said.

Lee was with his father at the airport.

They were wrapping up a father, son trip to Bangkok, Thailand.

The Lees were on the last leg of their return home. They had an 11-hour layover in Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan says they took a quick tour of the city and when they returned to airport, Joseph was randomly selected for a secondary security screening.

They were separated and minutes later, Jonathan says he received a phone call from Joseph telling him he was under arrest.

Jonathan says his father expected to be released momentarily so he boarded a plane and returned home.

Neither he nor his sister, Elaine Strathern, have heard from him since.

“It’s awful, absolutely awful. We just want my dad back,” Jonathan said.

“We just want our father back. He’s a very good man,” Strathern said.

The family planned to spend Thanksgiving together at Elaine’s Plano home.

Celebrating, now, is the last thing on their minds with their 59-year-old father stranded overseas.

“We just want to let the UAE government to know that there is no ill intent of my father and that we just want him back home. We want him back home safe and sound,” Jonathan said tearfully.

The Lee family has created an online petition to bring awareness to their story. As of Thursday, it had been signed by nearly 500 people.

NBC 5 contacted the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi. A representative said they are looking into the matter.

Yeomans, Meredith. “Family Begs for Father’s Return After UAE Airport Arrest.” NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, 23 Nov. 2017,                          

Lesmahagow grandfather will not be extradited to UAE

A retired businessman has won his fight against extradition to the UAE after he faced being deported for helping his daughter escape her troubled marriage there.

The grandfather, of Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, faced torture if he was sent back.

He left his whole life, including his business, behind when he left after five years in October 2010 to help his daughter escape the violent marriage.

He suffers from chronic asbestosis and has struggled to rebuild his life in Scotland ever since his return.

His former son-in-law, Saeed Al Mehri, 45, accused him of a ‘breach of trust’ after he realised there was no hope of reigniting his relationship with Sharon, or her daughter, eight.

The UAE then reported the case to Interpol and has being trying to get him extradited there since 2013.

Today the extradition request was finally turned down at a court hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Speaking at the hearing, Sheriff Thomas Welsh said there was a risk he be tortured if he was sent back for the potential one-year prison sentence.

His is believed to be the first attempted extradition to the UAE from Scotland.

Following the hearing, Mr Black said he was relieved but exhausted: ‘I am feeling great and very relieved.

‘It was a very strong judgement against the extradition from the Sheriff.

‘It’s just been hearing after hearing, I think I have had 20 or more, plus eight full days of court – it’s been exhausting.’

Mr Black employed his former son-in-law as a local representative for his international logistics business in Dubai  to use his ‘local influence’ to help with the company.

But Mr Al Mehri reportedly began drinking heavily and acting abusively, the hearing was told.

Mr Black’s daughter Sharon then decided to leave the UAE permanently with their daughter, Alya Black, eight, and return to Scotland.

It is believed Mr Al Mehri then fabricated the ‘breach of trust’ allegations in a bid to force his wife and child back to the Emirates.

Mr Black added today said: ‘This has been a very scary experience for my family.

In 2010, when I came back to Scotland it was clear Saeed was very angry we had got out, but he still hoped and tried to reconcile his relationship with my daughter.

‘In 2011, my daughter, against my better judgement, decided it was unfair for her to not allow her daughter to have a relationship with Saeed.

‘So he came over here to Scotland to visit us, and then again in 2012.

‘He became very anxious to get my granddaughters passport back to the UAE for renewal, and it was at that point Sharon told him Alya was a British citizen now.

‘He realised there was no chance they were going to reignite their relationship.

‘And in 2013, after my daughter received a lot of threats from him, out of the blue this case came against me.’

Mr Al Mehri accused Mr Black of stealing a share of the businesses, which Mr Black branded as ‘laughable’ and a ‘total joke’.

He said: ‘Saeed along with his brother, who is a chief prosecutor, convicted me of this breach of trust, in my absence, and then tried to go for extradition.

‘It was all a complete fabrication and utter nonsense.’

Mr Black was then convicted of a £250,000 embezzlement – despite him not being in the country at the time.

Solicitor David Haigh, managing partner of law firm Stirling Haigh testified earlier on in the extradition hearing.

Mr Haigh, who is a former managing director of Leeds United Football club, spoke of his own personal experience with the UAE legal system after he was wrongly imprisoned himself.

Radha Stirling, CEO of civil and criminal justice experts Detained in Dubai, also provided expert testimony at an earlier stage in the hearing.

She said: ‘The UAE is increasingly using Interpol for frivolous cases that do not even fall under its mandate.

‘Interpol is not an instrument to be used in private disputes, yet the UAE frequently reports non-criminal matters such as debt defaults and bounced cheques.

‘Mr Black’s case is particularly alarming because not only is it a private matter, but the motive behind it is essentially a personal grudge.’

If Mr Black were to have been extradited, given the personal nature of the case, and the family connections and influence of his former son-in-law, he would be in danger of serious violations of his human rights.’

‘It appears that the goal of this case was to force Mr Black’s daughter to return to the UAE, and the case was being used as leverage to coerce her capitulation.

‘Both David and I spent several days giving evidence. I was examined for approximately nine hours, showing just how thorough proceedings were.’

The cost of UAE extradition requests is high, estimated to be in the millions per year – with prosecutors acting on behalf of the UAE at the UK taxpayer’s cost.

There are court costs, prosecuting counsel and defence counsel costs, usually covered by legal aid.


Robin, Klopa. “Lesmahagow Grandfather Will Not Be Extradited to UAE.”, 18 Nov. 2017,

Expert testimony by David Haigh halts UAE extradition request of Edinburgh bus driver Garnett Black

Gary Black, from Lesmahagow, was facing 12 months in prison for an alleged “breach of trust”.

At a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, it was ruled that his human rights were at risk.

The 64-year-old was wanted over embezzlement charges which he said were invented by his former son-in-law.

The hearing took place on 17 November in Edinburgh, after a request was made to extradite Mr Black to the Middle Eastern country in 2013 after he was convicted in absentia of a £250,000 embezzlement.

But the court ruled that there was a high chance he would be denied his human rights in jail. It is believed to be the first attempted extradition to the UAE from Scotland.

In his judgment, Sheriff Thomas Welsh said there was a “real risk that if he is returned he will be subjected to torture, inhumane or degrading treatment”.


“Ahmad Zeidan: British Student Released from UAE Prison.” BBC News, BBC, 16 Nov. 2017,

Ahmad Zeidan: British student released from UAE prison

British student has been freed from jail in the United Arab Emirates after a three-year campaign for his release.

Ahmad Zeidan was imprisoned in 2014 after 0.04g of cocaine was found in a car in which he was a passenger. He always claimed he was innocent.

His father Manal said his son was freed after a £4,000 fine was paid and added: “We are overjoyed… he is finally free and still can’t believe it’s real.”

The Foreign Office said it “assisted” during Zeidan’s detention and release.

Mr Zeidan said his son has now left UAE and “wants to restart his education” after “recovering from his ordeal”.

Zeidan, now 23 and formerly from Reading, was studying at Emirates Aviation College when he was arrested.He claims he was tortured into admitting drugs charges. All the local men in the car were given pardons, but Zeidan was jailed in a Sharjah prison.

His family enlisted the help of human rights charity Reprieve and appealed to the Foreign Office to intervene, which led to a bilateral meeting between the British and UAE governments in March 2016.

When these came to nothing the student went on a three-day hunger strike, and unsuccessfully appealed for a royal pardon.

But following a high court appeal and a change in UAE drug laws, his sentence was reduced to seven years on 4 October.

His father told the BBC the family then hired another lawyer who successfully appealed for a further sentence reduction to five years, “most of which [Ahmad] had already served in detention”.

He added: “He could be released if a fine of approximately £4000 was paid. This was raised and he was freed immediately.”

Mr Zeidan said media coverage of his son’s case was “the only ray of light that kept both his story and motivation alive while he was being held prisoner for years”.

“[Ahmad] is still fragile and needs rest and recuperation to overcome past seizures he suffered while in captivity,” he said.

“Nothing can compensate for the material and emotional loss that he has endured.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Our staff assisted a British man and his family during his detention and subsequent release in the UAE.”

“Ahmad Zeidan: British Student Released from UAE Prison.” BBC News, BBC, 16 Nov. 2017,

Fines to replace court trials in some minor offences in Dubai

From December 4, prosecutors in Dubai will be able to fine suspects involved in certain types of misdemeanour and minor offences, including some bounced cheque and cursing cases, instead of referring them to court.

Dubai’s Attorney-General Essam Eisa Al Humaidan issued decision No. 88 of 2017, according to which prosecutors of the of Deira, Bur Dubai, and Family and Juveniles prosecution wings can start issuing criminal orders starting December 4.

 According to Al Humaidan’s decision, members of the three prosecution wings can fine suspects involved in specific minor offences rather than indicting them and referring them to the Dubai Misdemeanours Court to stand trial.

The list of misdemeanours is limited to certain minor offences including bounced cheques [up to Dh200,000], failing to pay for food, car rent or room rent [up to Dh50,000], defamation and cursing [excluding government sector employees], attempted suicide and disturbing victims through the use of telecommunication systems.

Prosecutor-General Mohammad Ali Rustom, Head of the Family and Juveniles Prosecution, told Gulf News on Monday: “The criminal order is an excellent step and a timely one as well. It has come to solve many hindrances and delays that litigants face. The litigation process requires a prosecutor to issue a decision on whether or not to indict a suspect and refer him/her to court or dismiss the case. Litigants [suspects and/or victims] used to wait for long periods … but now the criminal order has come to save time of litigants and, remarkably, tourists.”

Dubai is a major international tourist hub attracting millions of visitors every year, many of whom could get involved in misdemeanours, he said.

“There have been cases involving tourists, who came here to enjoy their holidays, but ended up getting stuck for weeks and months after having committed minor offences. In certain incidents, some litigants had to wait for six months. The criminal order reduces the waiting time for tourists, who end up being involved in such misdemeanours, and who do not have to wait for long periods awaiting to be referred to the Misdemeanours Court … in case they are guilty, they pay a fine rather than waiting,” Rustom told Gulf News.

A chief prosecutor, who preferred not to be named, said the criminal order assists Dubai Public Prosecution in achieving its goals to make procedures faster and easier to complete for litigants in cases pertaining to specific minor crimes.

According to the Attorney-General’s decision, a copy of which was obtained by Gulf News, Rustom; Prosecutor-General Yousuf Foulad, head of the Deira Prosecution; and Prosecutor-General Sami Al Shamsi, head of the Bur Dubai Prosecution, are entitled to assign a prosecutor to issue, amend or cancel a criminal order.



Bassam Za’za’, Legal and Court Correspondent. “Fines to Replace Court Trials in Some Minor Offences in Dubai.” GulfNews, Gulfnews, 13 Nov. 2017,

Holding Hands, Drinking Wine and Other Ways to Go to Jail in Dubai

A Scottish electrician named Jamie Harron, visiting Dubai as a tourist, was sentenced to three months in jail for touching a man in a bar.

The British head of a professional soccer team ,David Haigh, was ordered jailed for seven months for a tweet that he says could not have been from him — since he was already in jail without a phone.

An Australian aid worker living in Dubai, Scott Richards, was locked up for trying to raise money to buy blankets for freezing Afghan children, because he was not part of a recognized charity.

Dubai, one of the seven United Arab Emirates, portrays itself as welcoming to foreigners. Its boosters claim it is the fourth most-visited tourism destination in the world, and it has at least 12 times as many foreign residents as citizens.

But a legal system based on a hard-line interpretation of Shariah law often lands foreigners in jail for offenses that few Westerners would dream were even crimes.

Recent examples cited by lawyers include holding hands in public; posting praise on Facebook for a charity opposed to fox hunting; drinking alcohol without a license; and sharing a hotel room with a person of the opposite sex (other than one’s spouse).

Mostly, the Dubai authorities look the other way when it comes to such behavior by foreigners — until they don’t. Hotels do not ask couples for their marriage licenses. Dubai has a lively night life, with numerous gay bars and nightclubs where East European prostitutes openly solicit customers.

Yet cohabitation is a crime, homosexuality is subject to the death penalty (though it is rarely imposed) and prostitution can be punished with lashes and even worse.

Even victims of violent crimes can be accused of morality offenses: Gay people who report assaults have been jailed along with their attackers, and women who report being raped can be imprisoned for adultery if they do not have four male witnesses to support their story.

Radha Stirling, a British lawyer, says she has represented hundreds of Westerners who have been jailed in Dubai for behaviour that is usually permitted there.

“You go there and its facade is that all of this is legal, everyone is doing it, you think it’s O.K.,” said Ms. Stirling, who runs a British-based group, Detained in Dubai, that publicizes such cases. “But you offend someone and you’re the one who gets it.”

Two recent cases, both handled by Ms. Stirling, have aroused widespread ire in Britain, which has more nationals living in Dubai than any other Western country.

Mr. Harron, 27, the Scottish electrician visiting Dubai, was arrested and sentenced to three months in jail for public indecency for allegedly touching a man’s hip as he brushed past him in a crowded bar. And a British man from Leicester, Jamil Ahmed Mukadam, 23, is facing trial for giving the middle finger to a Dubai driver who he said was tailgating him.

Mr. Mukadam, a computer consultant, had been in a rental car, so it took the police a while to trace him. But six months later, in September, he was arrested at the airport upon returning to Dubai. He is now free on bail, without his passport, awaiting trial.

He could face six months in jail if convicted of making the “obscene gesture.” Mr. Mukadam said he had often visited Dubai with his wife and that he liked the city, particularly its variety of halal food, but does not plan to return.

“No chance I’m coming back here again,” he said. “I wouldn’t set foot here again, not the way I’ve been treated.”

Emiratis are mostly unapologetic about their country’s contradictions.

“Westerners’ culture differs from Arab culture,” Judge Ahmad Saif, head of the Dubai civil court, said in a recent interview with The National, a newspaper based in Abu Dhabi. “In their countries, flashing your middle finger or insulting another is not acceptable but it is not punishable by the law. The culture for people living in the U.A.E. is much different. At the end of the day, we are Muslims and committing such acts is not acceptable.”

Most cases that ensnare unwary foreigners involve morality offenses. It is against the law to drink without a license, for instance, but foreigners can only get one if they are residents. So any tourist who is drinking is doing so illegally, even in a licensed bar. Couples cannot share a room together if they are not married, even in their homes.

When Emlyn Culverwell, a 29-year-old South African, took his fiancée, Iryna Nohal, a Ukrainian, to a doctor in Dubai, complaining of stomach pain, the diagnosis was pregnancy — and the treatment was a phone call to the police. The couple were arrested and jailed when they could not produce a marriage license.

Some Emiratis acknowledge that their laws have not kept pace with a rapidly changing society.

“It is unreasonable to expect a country to warn each and every visitor about its complete set of rules and regulations in place,” Essam Tamimi, a Dubai lawyer, said in an email. “In a short period of time, Dubai has greatly developed and has become one of the world’s most diverse melting pots. That being said, laws in general are made to accommodate the society’s needs and the U.A.E., like most other countries, still has some changes to make.”

Dubai officials did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

Critics complain that the Emirates’ legal system is stacked against foreigners, and both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused the country of arbitrary detention and abuse of prisoners.

Mr. Haigh, a former managing director of Leeds United Football Club and a partner in Ms. Stirling’s law firm, said he was jailed for 22 months and tortured repeatedly in an attempt to force him to sign a confession, but never managed to see a copy of the charges to which he was supposed to confess.

Mr. Haigh had gotten into a business dispute with a Dubai bank, GFH Capital, that owned a stake in the team. He said he was tricked into coming to Dubai to resolve their differences, then jailed on arrival for breach of trust and held for several months without being allowed to see a lawyer.

While in jail, he was charged with posting an offensive Twitter message, though he says he had no phone or internet access. For that, his sentence was increased by seven months. He was eventually acquitted of the Twitter charge, but not until he had served another seven months on top of his original 15 month sentence.

“Ninety percent of the population are breaking the law 90 percent of the time and no one does anything against them until they upset the wrong person and they get arrested,” Mr. Haigh said of Dubai.

In recent years, the United Arab Emirates has cracked down on social media, making it a crime to criticize the country, its citizens or businesses on Facebook or Twitter. The law has mainly been used to punish domestic critics, but it also swept up Ryan Pate, a helicopter mechanic from Florida, who was jailed after he unleashed a Facebook rant over a sick leave dispute with his employer, Global Aerospace Logistics, a U.A.E. company.

Foreign residents and tourists encounter similar problems throughout the Emirates — Mr. Pate’s company was based in Abu Dhabi — but they are more common in Dubai because more Westerners live and visit there.

Other offenses that few foreigners realize can lead to jail time include passing a bad check, even accidentally; failing to pay a credit-card bill on time; taking a photograph of someone without his or her permission; and touching someone.

That was the accusation against Mr. Harron: that he had touched a man intimately in a public place, the Rock Bottom Cafe, a club frequented by gay men. He says he was just pushing through a crowd and put a hand on the man’s hip to avoid spilling his drink.

He was sentenced to three months in jail, although he was allowed to leave the country after the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, nullified the court’s ruling. Heavy publicity has often helped resolve such cases, even when legally they looked hopeless.

“The U.A.E. government is just a huge public relations entity,” Ms. Stirling said. “If they think a case is going to harm them, the government will speak to the police and get the charges dropped.”

Nordland, Rod. “Holding Hands, Drinking Wine and Other Ways to Go to Jail in Dubai.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Nov. 2017,


Scot trapped in Dubai for two years and forced to sleep in hotel toilets after £2 taxi fare mix-up

A Scots businessman has told how he was trapped in Dubai for two years awaiting trial over a £2 taxi fare mix-up.

David Ballantine, 46, was eventually jailed for 69 days, fined and deported back to the UK.

With his savings gone, he’s had to stay in homeless units and on friends’ couches.

It’s the latest shocking story of a Scot ensnared in Dubai’s legal system over seemingly trivial matters.

Last month, Jamie Harron – jailed for touching a man’s hip – and Billy Barclay – facing jail over a counterfeit cash misunderstanding – flew home to the relief of their families.
David, from Edinburgh, said his ordeal began in May 2013 when there was confusion over who was getting a lift in a Dubai government-owned taxi.
He asked the driver to stop but the taxi instead pulled up next to a policeman.
Told to pay the £2 minimum fare, David took cash from an ATM, ­dropped money through the cab window, before returning to friends.

David said: “The driver must not have seen the note. He accused me of not paying. I told him I had, and showed him where it was.
“He claimed that was his money. He was angry by now, not wanting to admit that he could be wrong.”
David said the driver attacked him, then spoke to the policeman before the Scot was arrested.
Hoping for a night in the cells at worst, David’s ­passport was confiscated so he couldn’t leave Dubai before trial.
Unable to work legally, he did jobs “off the books” for a year but ended up sleeping in hotel toilets, and was thrown down stairs and assaulted after being caught by security staff.

Jailed for 69 days, he was even accused of a charge of overstaying his visa – despite having had his ­passport seized.

On returning to Scotland, he has worked to put his life back together and is trying to secure investment for a metal trading business in Edinburgh.

David accused the UK Government of doing nothing to help him. He added: “They visited once, and gave me a list of lawyers that I couldn’t afford.”

Yesterday, Radha Stirling, head of campaign group Detained in Dubai, and managing partner of Stirling Haigh who helped David, said: “He is part of a class action taken against the UK Government for failing in their duty of care to British citizens.”

McEwen, Alan. “Scot Trapped Penniless in Dubai for Two Years after £2 Taxi Fare Mix-Up.” Dailyrecord, 2 Nov. 2017,