Derrin Crawford, the 23 year old British flight attendant currently being held in Dubai on charges of possessing an illegal substance with intent to distribute over two cannabis joints found by police in an apartment she was visiting, highlights the unpredictable dangers foreigners face in the UAE, according to Radha Stirling, founder and CEO of Detained in Dubai who represents Crawford and has appointed a legal team to attend the police station where she is held.
“What is happening right now to Derrin Crawford should alarm any foreigner in or intending to visit the UAE. She is the latest in a very long list of foreign nationals who have found themselves behind bars in Dubai, not due to anything they did wrong, but due to the systemic flaws in the UAE’s criminal justice system; from police to prosecutors, from judges to jailers. Any normal social interaction can suddenly turn into a criminal case; whether just taking pictures, brushing past someone in a crowded restaurant, going on a date or visiting someone’s home; anyone can find themselves accused of a crime, hastily convicted, and sentenced to years in prison,” Stirling explains.
Crawford was visiting the apartment of a man she had been speaking to online for about a week when his flat was suddenly raided by the Dubai police. Two cannabis joints were found by investigators, and both the man and Crawford were arrested on the spot. A drug test was performed on Crawford and there were no illegal substances in her bloodstream. She has since been charged with possession with intent to distribute, despite the drugs being found in someone else’s home, and despite the implausibility of two cannabis joints being intended for distribution. The charges carry a potential sentence of life imprisonment.
“In no jurisdiction anywhere in the world would Derrin face these charges,” Stirling says, “She had no knowledge that the cannabis was present in the home of this man whom she only just met a week earlier. She does not smoke, and in fact suffers from tonsillitis, which is easily aggravated, impedes her breathing, and for which she has been hospitalised many times, including in Dubai. Drugs were not found in her system, nor were the drugs in her possession. Had the police not raided the apartment, she never would have known the cannabis was there. If the police were acting on a tip, they must know that Derrin has no involvement whatsoever in any case they may have against the person whose apartment it was; just as they knew that Andy Neal had nothing to do with the drugs being sold in an adjacent apartment to his own. However, police are incentivised to inflate cases, exaggerate charges, and to coerce false confessions to compensate for a lack of evidence, or to negate evidence of innocence, to facilitate convictions.
“If Derrin’s case is not quickly addressed by the UK government and highlighted by the British media, our fear is that she will be forced to endure months, if not years or wrongful imprisonment; just like Andy Neal and Artur Ligeska before her. She has already been detained over 2 weeks in a crowded police station jail, and her medical condition has deteriorated. We are gravely concerned about her health and safety; we are calling upon the FCO to intervene urgently to secure the dismissal of the charges and enable Derrin to come home.
“The British government, indeed, the international community, needs to respond quickly to cases like Derrin’s precisely because they are becoming increasingly common in the UAE. The Emirates needs to learn that nations around the world will no longer tolerate the abuse of their citizens, whose tourism and investment the UAE aggressively seeks to attract. By intervening immediately when such cases occur, the world can potentially prompt the Emirates to improve and reform, and to comply with global standards of justice they otherwise appear uninterested in implementing. If we are waiting for the UAE to make itself safe for foreigners, foreigners would be best advised to go elsewhere.”