The United Arab Emirates (UAE) arrested a 25-year-old American woman on February 23 for “insulting” the state, though she claims “nothing happened.”
Two men approached the unnamed woman at the Abu Dhabi International Airport as she waited for a taxi.
“The men tried to help me. I had another flight to catch at 1.29am. I refused to engage with them and nothing happened,” she told the court.
She did not have a lawyer since the court considers her crime a misdemeanor. State paper The National said the court scheduled a verdict for May 2.
The U.S. Embassy told the Associated Press that it “is aware of the case and is providing consular services.”
The UAE treats defamation “as a criminal rather than a civil matter.” These insults can lead to “a prison sentence and steep fines.” She has asked the court if she could just pay a fine and leave jail. The media does not know if the court presented any evidence against her.
At the end of March, the UAE released U.S. citizen Matthew Novak, 31, from Kansas City, MO, after authorities arrested him for fake loans. They claimed he took out $90,000 from across the country. From KMBC:
Novak previously worked as a school teacher in Abu Dhabi from 2009 to 2012 before taking a teaching job in Thailand and later Cairo, his family said. He lost his U.S. passport in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital, in 2010 and reported it missing to both the U.S. Embassy and local police there before receiving a replacement, his family said.
His family believes someone stole Novak’s passport and then used it to make the loans.
Authorities arrested Ryan Pate from Belleair Bluffs, FL, when he returned to the UAE after he ranted about sick leave for his company “he was working for” in the Gulf nation. They arrested him for “slandering his employer.”
“I just couldn’t register it in my head because as an American growing up in the United States, the First Amendment right is just ingrained in my brain,” he explained. “I never even entertained the fact that I would wind up in prison out here for something I put on Facebook in the United States.”
In February, the UAE dropped terrorism charges against two Libyan-American and a Libyan-Canadian. Authorities charged the men “with knowingly financing two Libya rebel groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.” They decided to charge the three “with the lesser offense of illegally raising funds.”