Parents of Jamie Harron Could Face Jail in Dubai
The parents of UAE detainee Jamie Harron have been informed that they risk being detained by Emirati authorities if they were to visit their son in Dubai.
Jamie Harron was arrested five months ago in Dubai and is facing a possible jail sentence on charges of public indecency for touching another man's hip whilst trying not to spill his drink when moving through a crowded bar in downtown Dubai.
His parents now want to visit him but have been informed by Detained in Dubai, a UK based NGO representing Harron, that they risk being charged under the UAE's cyber-crime laws if they do so.
CEO of Detained in Dubai, Ms Stirling said: “Jamie’s parents want to visit him during this difficult time.”
“I have advised them that they are at risk of being charged under the UAE’s Cybercrime Laws for speaking negatively about the regime and that the coverage of this case should offer them some protection.
“But technically, they could be jailed for this crime.”
As part of a broader crackdown on freedom of speech inside the UAE, in 2012 the Emirati government instituted the vague 'cybercrime law' which has allowed the authorities to more effectively control and sanction online activity around social media sites.
According to the cybercrime law, online criticism of the government, companies or individuals, or related issues in the UAE is a crime punishable of up to 15 years in prison.
There have been many examples of this in recent years. Jordanian journalist, Tayseer al-Najjar, is currently serving a three year sentence after being convicted of Facebook posts he made prior to moving to the UAE to work as a cultural reporter a couple of years ago.
Similarly in 2015, US citizen Ryan Pate was arrested in the UAE for comments he posted on Facebook while in the U.S that were critical of his Emirati employers Global Aerospace Logistics (Gal).
Critics have long maintained that the cybercrime law heavily contravenes rights around freedom of expression and assembly in the UAE, and that it is merely a technique used by authorities to silence dissenting voices in the country.
As a result of his social media activities, the prominent Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor has been detained by UAE authorities for over six months in an unknown location without access to a lawyer, whilst the distinguished Emirati academic Dr. Nasser Bin Gaith was sentenced earlier this year to ten years in prison for Tweets critical of the authorities.
According to the Emirates Media and Studies Centre, in 2016 alone, around 300 people were detained for voicing opinions on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Since the Arab Spring of 2011, repression has been rapidly stepped up by the UAE authorities which has seen both Emirati's and non-Emirati's arbitrarily detained, forcefully disappeared, and in many cases tortured, on the most frivolous of charges. This has made the UAE an increasingly inhospitable and unpredictable environment for foreign nationals to travel and work within. It is imperative the recent spate of arrests of British nationals in the UAE be understood within this wider climate of repression inside the country, which has become increasingly systematic in recent years.
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- For more information on the story, please see http://www.scotsman.com/news/parents-face-jail-for-visiting-scot-charged-in-dubai-1-4590435