Steve Long Freed
Steve Long, the man who was arrested in Abu Dhabi because he was afraid, returns to England. The special forces veteran was arrested at Abu Dhabi’s international airport after expressing concerns there “could be a bomb on the plane”. He was sentenced to a £104,000 fine, the equivalent of 13 years in prison had he not been able to come up with the money. This is in spite of the UAE’s medical board determining that he was not of sound mind and was suffering from physical and mental trauma.
Radha Stirling, founder and CEO of Detained in Dubai and Due Process International commented on the case: “When the incident occurred which led to his arrest, Steve was on his way home to his family to go to hospital for treatment for undiagnosed PTSD because his mental and emotional state had been rapidly deteriorating while on holiday in the UAE. We are very glad to see his journey home finally completed so Steve can receive the help he needs. However, Abu Dhabi demanded a payment of £104,000 for Steve’s release, which is more than what 96% of Britons earn in a year; it was an exorbitant fine that would have guaranteed jail time for a man already suffering severe psychological trauma had the family been unable to crowd-source the funds.
“When the case was brought to their attention, the FCDO did not intervene on Steve’s behalf, but his family and friends did. We released Steve’s story to the media immediately after his family contacted us, and his family mobilised to collect the funds to pay off the fine; but this is yet another failure on the part of the British government in protecting its citizens abroad. Steve’s arrest was unreasonable, and even airline staff did not initially agree to press charges, given Steve’s clear distress. The UAE has a history of using criminal cases essentially for extortive purposes, and Steve’s case is a prime example. Imprisonment would have been cruel and unusual punishment for a man already in the grips of a mental breakdown, so they set the fine knowing Steve’s family would do whatever necessary to pay it; and knowing apparently that the FCDO would not take any action to press for his compassionate release. “Etihad pushed the police to drop the case after reviewing his medical evidence but by then, it was too late”. “I have spoken with Steve’s sister Clare, and of course they are ecstatic that Steve is home and recuperating with his family. They are immensely grateful for the generous support of all those who contributed to enable them to pay the fine; and they kindly request for their privacy to be respected. The family has been through a nightmare over the past several weeks, and we are very happy to see that nightmare come to an end. “This case, however, represents a stark warning to any British citizens travelling to the UAE, and we can assume that the Emirates will only be emboldened by how this case was resolved. Abu Dhabi has learned that the FCDO is effectively neutralised, and unless someone is able to earn the attention of the international media, they will have no recourse for justice in the UAE.”