Lawyer claims tourists are jailed for ‘sport’ in Dubai as indecency trial starts for Scot
ASCOT facing three years in prison for putting his hand on a man’s hip in a Dubai bar which he claimed was to avoid spilling drinks will appear in court today on a “public indecency” charge amid claims by his legal team that locals are trying to get westerners jailed for “sport”.
Jamie Harron, 27, from Stirling, has already spent 30 days behind bars for drinking alcohol and “making a rude gesture” on July 15.
He was in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for two days and had been due to fly on to Afghanistan to take up a job as an electrician.
Speaking ahead of today’s court appearance, Harron, who has lost his job and been forced to pay £32,000 in expenses and legal fees, described his ordeal as “just unbelievable” and admitted he is “still in shock”.
His lawyer Radha Stirling has claimed “it’s a sport to have someone locked up for a few days” in Dubai, and said that some locals even use the law “for vindication if they feel offended by someone”.
In Dubai it is illegal to drink or be drunk in public, swear or make rude gestures, kiss in public, cross-dress, have sex outside marriage, share a hotel room with someone you’re not married to – and homosexuality is completely banned.
Harron was arrested on July 15 after a businessman called the police and claimed that the Scot had been “very drunk” and “repeatedly” touched him.
The man later dropped his complaint after discovering Harron is facing three years in prison.
But prosecutors are proceeding with the public indecency case which comes to court today.
Harron said: “I hope that it can be sorted out but I already didn’t think it would have gone on for so many months in the first place.
“I’ve lost my job. I’m in debt now. I may be going to prison and all this for a two-day stopover. It’s just unbelievable.
“I’m still in shock that it’s actually happened.”
Harron’s representative Stirling,
founder of the British campaign group Detained in Dubai.
The group provides legal advice to foreigners facing charges in UAE, said it deals with around 100 enquiries a week. These are primarily from British nationals who are facing charges for offences that would not be illegal in the UK.
Stirling said: “It’s very common. In fact, what we’re seeing is it’s almost a sport. Socially, it’s a sport to have someone locked up for a few days.
“Now I think in this [Harron’s] case they weren’t expecting it would turn into this six-month ordeal but what I’m noticing is that people receive a lot of kudos, especially if they have a British person locked up.
“So there are a lot of different social reasons to make reports and they’re very report happy.
“They know that the judicial system there is flawed and that they use it for fun, or for vindication if they feel offended by someone. They know they can have someone locked up and they use that.”
Stirling has also criticised the UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office for providing advice to British travellers.
She said: “They don’t talk about the prevalence of false allegations, the lack of evidence that’s required by police to actually secure a prosecution.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said of Harron’s case: “We have been in contact with a British man following his arrest in Dubai in July.
“We are providing consular assistance.”
Scot Jamie Harron pictured before his arrest in Dubai