Jamie Harron and other bizarre arrests in the United Arab Emirates

The many surprising arrests made in the United Arab Emirates

Many visitors have been arrested in the United Arab Emirates

Monday, October 9, 2017

As that famous HSBC ad told us, it's important to embrace and understand other cultures when you're overseas.

But, in the United Arab Emirates, it seems this maxim is even more important than usual.

A Scottish man was arrested in the UAE for allegedly putting his hand on a man's hip whilst in a bar. Jamie Harron claimed he only touched the man in July as he was trying not to spill his drink, but police reportedly said the act amounted to public indecency.

Harron spent five days in custody and was then released, but had been instructed not to leave the country. The incident cost him his job and he also spent thousands in legal fees, before being sentenced to three months in prison on Sunday (October 22).

However, now the charges against Harron have been dropped by the government and campaign group Detained in Dubai says his passport has been returned to him and he is able to go home. 

But this is far from the first time visitors to the UAE have been arrested for things we would deem perfectly normal in Britain.

Caught on camera

In 2014 a 70-year old man was arrested, for the alleged crime of taking a photograph. It wasn't an indecent image like you might imagine; in fact it was a series of photographs of buildings which resulted in his arrest.

Robert Alan Black had been in the country for a conference on creative thinking and whilst there photographed buildings he found interesting. However he had not realised photographing places such as government buildings, embassies and military facilities was illegal.

For this he was kept in prison for a month and was handed a fine of roughly £100.

Bad company

We all know that social media can be a potential minefield - but American Ryan Pate had a bigger surprise than most following a rant about his employer.

The American helicopter mechanic criticised UAE company Global Aerospace Logistics online whilst in Florida. He claimed the firm suspended his pay due to a medical condition he had. But when he returned to the UAE he was arrested for slander. After spending 10 days in prison he was released on bail and luckily the company eventually dropped charges against him.

Gang rape furore

Last year a British woman claimed she was a victim of gang rape in Dubai, however shockingly this resulted in her own arrest. Police claimed this meant she had sex outside of marriage, which is against the law and so she was charged. Later she was released on bail and told she wasn't allowed to leave the country.

The 25-year-old had claimed the rape was conducted and filmed by two British men who allegedly went back home immediately after the attack. But when footage was viewed by prosecutors it was ruled that the sex was consensual and the case was dropped.

Consent doesn't cut

But even consensual sex can cause problems. In January this year a couple were detained for the crime of having sex outside of marriage, despite being engaged. Relatives say Iryna Nohai, from Ukraine, was arrested along with her South African partner after a doctor found out she was pregnant.

The couple were then imprisoned for one month but thankfully charges against the pair were dropped and they were released.

Real-life satire

As we've seen, most of these bizarre arrests tend to lead to quick release, with little or no punishment. But sometimes things can work out very differently - as Shezanne Cassim found when he was forced to spend 21 months in prison for creating a satirical video in 2013.

The American, who was living in the country at the time, mocked the UAE's rich young people who, he claimed, acted like gangsters despite loving living affluently. The video was ruled a security threat and Cassim, who had already served nine months in custody, was given a one-year sentence. He was also fined around £2,000.