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British woman faced 2yrs in Dubai prison for Facebook post

British woman faced 2yrs in Dubai prison for Facebook post

DUBAI: A British woman faced up to two years in prison in Dubai or a fine of up to Dh260,000 (B2.27 million) for a Facebook post that she wrote in the UK branding her ex-husband’s new wife a ‘horse’.

policeimmigrationcrime
By Poria Mermand

Thursday 25 April 2019, 04:21PM


Laleh Shahravesh, was convicted in Dubai for a Facebook post written in Britain calling her ex-husband’s new wife a horse. Photo: Facebook / Detained In Dubai

Laleh Shahravesh, was convicted in Dubai for a Facebook post written in Britain calling her ex-husband’s new wife a horse. Photo: Facebook / Detained In Dubai

Laleh Shahravesh, 55, from London, was arrested on March 10 when she and her daughter Paris, 14, flew to Dubai airport to attend the funeral of her ex-husband, Pedro Manuel Coreia Dos Santos, one week after he died from a heart attack, aged 51.

They were held for 12 hours before Ms Shahravesh’s passport was seized, according to Detained In Dubai group.

The teenager, who had recently lost her father and was now without her mother, returned to Britain and wrote to the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, pleading, “I have not seen my mother in 23 days, and with every passing day, I feel less hopeful of her return.

“I ask kindly: please, please return my mother’s passport, and let her come home.”

Ms Shahravesh had been married to Mr Dos Santos for 18 years and they lived together in Dubai for eight months before she returned to Britain with their daughter.

A few months later, in 2016, she unexpectedly received divorce papers and realised from photos on Facebook that Pedro had remarried.

In one Facebook post, which she wrote in Britain, she said, “I hope you go under the ground you idiot. Damn you. You left me for this horse.”

She explained that she had no idea he was getting married again, and so soon after their own marriage broke down.

“I reacted badly. I lashed out and wrote two unpleasant comments about his new wife on his Facebook page.”

Ms Shahravesh’s posts, written in Persian, were reported by Pedro’s new wife, Samah Al Hammadi, 42, from Tunisia, according to Detained In Dubai.

As Ms Hammadi was in Dubai when the posts were written, Ms Shahravesh was liable under the UAE’s strict cybercrime laws.

Detained In Dubai, who campaigned for Ms Shahravesh's release, were made aware by legal representatives that the Brit faced two years in prison or a Dh260,000 fine.

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Radha Stirling, chief executive of Detained In Dubai, said Ms Hammadi had since posted on Facebook that she was considering retracting her complaint out of respect for Paris.

“We are delighted to hear that the complainant is considering dropping the charges, however, it should never have become such an issue because the Dubai prosecution should not have allowed it to escalate as far as it has,” Ms Stirling said.

In her letter to Sheikh Mohammed, Paris said, “I cannot emphasise enough how scared I felt, especially after losing my father just a week before, as I was having to worry about losing my mother as well.

“Yet even though I felt terrified on the day that we arrived, the sick feeling in my stomach only became worse.”

She said her crying mother had been yelled at by police and was forced to sign a document in Arabic which she did not understand, and that her mother’s arrest had left her “without the closure that I had wished to gain from attending my father’s funeral”.

Jeremy Hunt, the British Foreign Secretary, told reporters in Luxembourg that the Government was “concerned” by the situation and that Ms Shahravesh was getting the best possible service from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

The case attracted widespread international attention and British tabloid journalists were buzzing around the Dubai Court on April 11, taking photos of Ms Shahravesh, who was visibly upset.

Judge Mohamed Mustafa Ibrahim Khalil said the case should be resolved quickly given the international attention it had attracted.

Finally, after holding Ms Shahravesh for more than a month in Dubai, the judge issued his decision, convicting her of a misdemeanour and imposed a fine of Dh3,000 (B26,000).

The judge had initially adjourned the case but decided to hurry it through due to the image that was being portrayed of the country internationally.

Ironically, the UAE is heavily promoting 2019 as its ‘Year of Tolerance’, with Sheikh Mohammed stating, “We want the UAE to be the global reference point for a tolerant culture, via its policies, laws and practices.”

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