An unidentified American woman is apparently begging officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to let her out of jail.
The 25-year-old has been jailed for seven weeks, and has asked to pay a fine for her alleged crime so she can finally be released and go home, according to the UAE’s English-speaking newspaper The National.
These requests have apparently fallen on deaf ears. The woman has been jailed since Feb. 23 and the verdict in her case won’t be read until early May, the Associated Press reported.
Her crime? Insulting two men who tried to help her at the Abu Dhabi International Airport.
The nature of the incident in question is quite vague. The AP and the National reported slightly different versions of the exchange that got her jailed in UAE.
The woman was waiting for a taxi at the airport when two men approached her and offered to help her in some way. It appears as though Abu Dhabi was a pit stop in her travels and not her destination, as she told the Federal Supreme Court that she had another flight at 1:29 a.m.
The woman told the court that she “refused to engage with them and nothing happened.”
It’s not clear when she was picked up by the authorities or how they became aware of the incident. It’s also not clear if any evidence had been presented against her.
Officials have jailed the woman on a charge of insulting the nation and its leaders through “verbal assault.”
Because the alleged crime is a misdemeanor, she is not entitled to a lawyer.
According to Agence France-Presse, she appeared in court on Monday but the nature of those proceedings wasn’t reported in any significant detail and the woman is apparently still jailed. She told the court that she doesn’t understand why she is on trial.
Ahead of a verdict scheduled in May, the woman has requested to be allowed to pay a fine so that she can be released. It’s not clear if the court intends to consider that request, or has rejected it outright.
With little information about the jailed American, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi is at least aware of the incident and is “providing consular services.”
The UAE is considered a fairly liberal country on some issues, but it’s very strict when it comes to the laws that govern expression. Defamation in the UAE is a crime, not a civil offense, and insulting the country’s leaders or the country can result in steep fines and time in prison.
According to Human Rights Watch, the UAE prosecutes critics, dissidents and human rights activists as terrorists, and some offenses come with the death penalty. The country enforces a cybercrime law to prosecute government critics as well.
An American from Minnesota found himself charged and tried under this cybercrime law in 2013, accused of defamation for posting a video online that spoofed youth culture. The 29-year-old spent nine months in prison.
According to a report by News.com.au three years ago, when a Norwegian woman was jailed in UAE for having sex outside marriage (she was actually raped), there is a long list of things tourists cannot do if they travel to the country.
No drinking, no public displays of affection (even holding hands), no extra-marital sex, no being gay, cursing, wearing sexy bathing suits or clothing (women and men both), smoking, harassing women, taking pictures of people without permission, or doing drugs.
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