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  • Writer's pictureDue Process

Americans detained in Dubai - A by-product of UAE lobbying?

American detained in Dubai is not alone. Why does Dubai jail tourists? UAE lobbying has suppressed criminality for over a decade and it is US citizens who pay.

Nevada resident Peter Clark, originally from California, is one of a string of American tourists who have seen the inside of a Dubai jail. Just what is making Dubai so unsafe?

Clark has called on Senator Rosen and Senator Cortez Masto to assist, after being arrested for trace elements of cannabis found in his urine when he was hospitalised in Dubai. He faces several years in prison if found guilty of possessing cannabis in his blood, even though it was consumed legally back home in Nevada, outside of the UAE’s jurisdiction.

This time last year, Rob Lowe’s former personal assistant, Melissa McBurney, was detained in Abu Dhabi over allegations she had been abusive to her Egyptian stalker over WhatsApp. Under the UAE’s Cybercrime Laws, she faced two years in prison.

She said: 'What I have been through has left me absolutely shaken. I have felt under constant threat the past years causing me unspeakable stress, and now I am facing criminal charges.

'I just hope the authorities can see what has been happening. I am the innocent part in all of this and they need to provide protection.'

Melissa, who has also worked as a personal assistant for country star John Denver, comedian Joan Rivers and record executive Neil Bogart, was eventually released after a Detained in Dubai campaign for her freedom. The charges were eventually dropped, but when Melissa made her own allegations against the Egyptian stalker, for severe online harassment and circulating offensive photos of her, the authorities did not pursue him. “This just shows the severe inequality in the UAE”, said Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, who represented Melissa. “Ashraf Faisal Hegazy’s frivolous allegation was taken seriously and Melissa was detained, but when her hundreds of pages of documented evidence of his violations were presented to authorities, they chose not to pursue him and swept it under the rug. Similarly, women have ended up jailed for sex outside marriage after reporting violent rapes”.

Florida resident, Professor David Oliver was detained in Dubai after suffering a stroke that rendered him incapable of repaying a small credit card debt. Only after a Detained in Dubai campaign coupled with diplomatic intervention, was he able to return home. Sadly, he died only one year after arriving home due to a degenerative disease that went untreated in Dubai. “This case was particularly heartbreaking”, said Radha Stirling who remains in touch with his family. “It was only because he was stuck in the country that his medical condition went undiagnosed. He’d already suffered a stroke and was just left there, homeless and ill.”

Oregon fitness trainer Jordan Branford was arrested after his ex-wife, from Egypt, reported him to police for using an offensive word in a private Instagram message to her. “It’s difficult to comprehend that a private message sent in the heat of the moment can land you in jail. A number of fighting couples or those amidst a break-up have engaged in heated text based arguments that are considered jailable offenses if the other party reports them. Sometimes, they are deliberately provoked so a vindictive report can be made. Laleh Shahravesh was arrested for a post, calling her former husband’s new partner “horse face”, and a woman was released this year after texting a swear word to her flatmate during lockdown disputes. The Cybercrime laws criminalise almost any visitor to the UAE”.

This is not a simple case of following the law though. “The UAE is a country where rape victims can be jailed for sex outside marriage, where people can be jailed for having a blood alcohol reading in public (however small), where a simple allegation is sufficient evidence to arrest and detain someone and where a witness statement is sufficient to secure a conviction. For whatever reason, if someone makes an allegation against another for offensive behaviour, rudeness, road rage or another crime, the police will detain that person. We have instances of forced confessions, of extortion and of embassies telling their citizens to just ‘plead guilty’. It is this lack of evidentiary proof, corruption and due process, that makes Dubai a very unsafe place for tourists”, added Stirling.

The UAE has shown an increasing disrespect to Americans over the last decade, but why? “It’s become clearer”, says Stirling, who has launched an investigation into the UAE’s relationship with America. “We can see the blatantly obvious. The trade deals, the arms deals and the mutually beneficial security relations, but more and more, I am asked by US officials and even the FBI, why is the US turning a blind eye to severe violations? We have uncovered significant evidence of the suppression of intelligence relating to illicit trading, Iran sanctions violations, human trafficking, weapons trading and money laundering. But when these issues have previously been brought to the attention of state security, congress and the senate, the UAE has sent their lobbyists to work and the intel has been suppressed, the subject changed.

“The problem with this, is that the UAE has been sent a clear message that they can get away with some serious criminal activity and that the US and other foreign states, will look the other way so long as they continue to feather their nests. It is this that is putting American lives at stake though, and it is imperative this stops before we end up with another Khashoggi style execution”.

“Dubai hotel tycoon Khalaf al Habtoor (Hilton group) adamantly denied Saudi’s involvement in Khashoggi’s extrajudicial killing just as he denied his employee’s involvement in a cocaine flight from South America. When US national Mr Khoury informed him of his employee’s involvement, he opened an Interpol Red Notice against Khoury because he found the allegation ‘insulting’. Interpol’s database is open to abuse by those who pay, and the UAE pays well. US national Oussama El Omari was recruited by the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, but after a game of thrones style shift in power, Omari was wrongfully placed on Interpol’s databases and targeted by the ruler’s US agents. El Omari has just won a New York case against the agents.

“Then quite astonishingly, the regime has been targeting US citizens with Israeli intelligence agencies. The Daily Beast last week reported their investigation that Bluehawk CI, an Israeli / US intelligence firm, had posed as Fox News Journalists to try to gather information on our clients and to hack them. Both Oussama El Omari and Dr Khater Massaad were targeted by the firm. I have also been targeted by the regime for my work in uncovering Ras Al Khaimah’s suppressed crimes. The Times of Israel asked for comment from the government and the spy firm but were met with silence.

I have reported these crimes to the FBI to investigate. It is no longer acceptable that the UAE has the green light to target US civilians. This has to stop before it escalates further.

“In 2018, the UAE committed the most outrageous crime against a US civilian yacht in international waters, circumventing international laws and treaties to kidnap Princess Latifa and US/French national Captain Hervé Jaubert and unlawfully render them to Dubai. In no way, was it justifiable that the UAE ordered a military attack on a private US vessel in international waters in the dead of night, so why was it allowed and what kind of a message does this send to our apparent ally?

“As it stands, the UAE has approval to act belligerently and criminally, causing a significant increased security threat. This is seen in everything from the unfair detentions of tourists, to cases of illegal hacking, surveillance, human rights abuses and torture and the most serious threat of the UAE taking action against people outside of their own jurisdiction. American Hervé Jaubert was plucked from international waters. Oussama El Omari has been targeted with espionage within the United States and the country is only being further emboldened. The UK has already ruled that Princess Shamsa was kidnapped from British soil. If the US does not change their tune, we can expect to see the UAE becoming more of a danger internationally.”

“The State Department’s travel warnings have certainly increased over the past few years, but the hundreds of millions of dollars invested by Dubai’s tourism and lobbying department continues to lure Americans to the desert city. Influencers, singers, artists and celebrities are promoting a country that is anything but liberal, and in direct conflict with most of their declared public values.

“The UAE will continue to market itself as a modern, liberal city and influencers and politicians will continue to profit from the suppression of truth and abuses. But after more than fifteen thousand cases at Detained in Dubai, and years of investigation, the UAE will only find it harder to distract the public. The politicians and influencers will find it much harder to justify their association to the country”.

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