Lawyer claims tourists are jailed for ‘sport’ in Dubai as in­de­cency trial starts for Scot

Sunday Herald - - NEWS - BY PETER SWINDON

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

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