Aussie artist Jodi Magi did something on social media that’s par for the course in most countries. She snapped a photo of an able-bodied neighbor hogging two handicapped parking spaces outside her Abu Dhabi apartment and posted it to Facebook.
Someone complained about the post, which blacked out the license plate and didn’t name the car’s owner, but now Magi is in jail and awaiting deportation from the United Arab Emirates. And Jodi claims the Australian Embassy has done little to help her, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
It isn’t clear what exactly she said on Facebook, besides post the shaming photo, or who called authorities to complain about it in June. But that simple act is considered a crime in UAE under its Cyber Crime Law, News.com.au added. Under that law, Magi is in jail facing a charge of “writing bad words on social media.”
Jodi was found guilty of the charge in an Abu Dhabi court two weeks ago, where she said she was forced to sign documents written in Arabic without translation, ABC reported. Afterward, she agreed to pay a fine and leave Abu Dhabi for her native Perth, but the court told her to stay put — if she didn’t show up for her next appearance, they’d throw her in jail.
When she obeyed and headed back to court Monday, she was thrown in jail anyway.
“I have zero idea [what I have done wrong]. I used the internet. I’m putting my life in the hands of chaos. I’m terrified. No-one is talking to me. No-one is telling me what is going on … “They were about to put me in male lock-up and then they turned me away and no one knows what to do with me. I’m pretty scared.”
No one knows how long she will remain incarcerated in Abu Dhabi, but Embassy officials assert that she’ll be deported soon.
It’s fairly common for non-Arabic detainees to be compelled to sign documents in a foreign language, “leading to convictions on charges they don’t understand and may not have realized they were admitting guilt to,” an Amnesty International spokeswoman said.
More to the point, UAE isn’t the best place in the world to be opinionated on social media, and Abu Dhabi is especially repressive, Human Rights Watch researcher Nicholas McGeehan told the Herald.
“You now have a cyber-crime decree, which acts in conjunction with strong defamation laws, where basically anyone who says anything online, makes any comment online about another person, could fall foul of those laws if someone complains about them, particularly if someone has any connection to the authorities.”
Meanwhile, Jodi Magi is throwing accusations at her Embassy, whom she has accused of ignoring her case and leaving her vulnerable to authorities. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has vehemently denied that, assuring that authorities provided “all appropriate consular assistance” to Jodi and her husband.
Magi said that “consular assistance” has amounted to advice that she get a lawyer.
“I’m not sure if it was me being naive. I was under the impression that embassies were in countries to help their citizens in times of difficulty. But from my experience it seems that their job here seems to be to generate business and they have no interest in anything other than that.”
[Photo Courtesy of Twitter]