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  • Detained in Dubai


Dangerous. Easily abused Islamic laws make Dubai a minefield for the Western visitor

The CCTV footage shows a cordial encounter as a group of friends approach a woman whom they think they know. When they realise that she is someone else, everyone is polite, and the encounter breaks up, with each going on their way. But this is Dubai, a place where nearly any interaction can become a criminal case.

Back in September, four friends from the UK were on holiday in the UAE; while shopping in Jumeirah Beach, one of them thought he spotted a woman he knew, so he got her attention to say hello. After seeing that he was mistaken, he and his friend chatted with the woman for a moment and then they continued into the mall. The next day, police arrived at the friends’ hotel informing the group that the woman was pressing charges against all of them for insulting her. Suddenly, their holiday became a prolonged ordeal, a trial, a travel ban, and attempted extortion.

As the four faced a court case, with potential fines and jail time, the woman (who claims to be a prominent social media influencer) approached the men through a lawyer offering to drop the charges in exchange for AED 400,000. When they refused, her fee for withdrawing the case reduced to AED 200,000, or roughly £45,000.

“It is disturbingly easy to fabricate a criminal case in the UAE,” says Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, “So much power is given to accusers that making false allegations can be a profitable endeavour particularly when directed against foreigners and tourists who vulnerable and so desperate to return home that they may actually pay the extortion. In this case, the men refused to submit to the demand, and were sentenced to just AED 5,000, but the complainant has appealed; they face a new verdict this Thursday, and we hope the judge will simply dismiss the matter since there are multiple witnesses and CCTV footage to corroborate that no conflict ever actually occurred.”