Alcohol and Dubai: why they don't mix

Dubai has hit the headlines in the British papers again, and not for a good reason. It was reported that a British guy could be jailed for indecent behaviour for maybe three years. He was in Rock Bottom bar in Tecom (where I used to live) and brushed a Jordanian man on the hips, in a bid not to spill his drink.  The Jordanian man thought his behaviour was indecent. That’s how the incident has been reported by the British media. (See article in the Daily Mail below).

In other media, notably in Dubai, it was reported that the man was drunk so when the police arrived he was arrested.

Few people, apart from those ex-pats who live there, seem to realise that it is illegal to be caught drinking outside a licensed premises such as restaurant or club. That’s why people who live in the emirate get an alcohol license, which entails getting a signature from your employer that you are allowed to drink, among other things. I never got one.

Without a license you can be arrested for drinking at home, or even for having alcohol on the premises. So, if the police found this guy drunk, or even with alcohol in his system, he would be arrested. Indecency wouldn’t even need to be considered.

British father begs people not to visit Dubai

  • ·        Jamie Harron, 27, was arrested for brushing hip of Jordanian man in a Dubai bar

  • ·    He is now facing up to three years in jail after being accused of public indecency

  • ·       Group handling his case say accuser was 'showing off in front of his friends'

  • ·       Mr Harron has said the experience has 'broken' him, while his father Graham begged other people not to visit the city

PUBLISHED: 19:08 +11:00, 9 October 2017 | UPDATED: 19:08 +11:00, 9 October 2017

The Jordanian man who got a British tourist arrested in Dubai for touching him on the hip did it in order to show off, campaigners believe.

Jamie Harron, 27, from Stirling, is facing up to three years in jail in the United Arab Emirates after being accused of public indecency earlier this year. 

Radha Stirling, who runs Detained in Dubai which is overseeing Mr Harron's case, said the accuser 'was trying to show off his power in front of his friends'. 

Mr Harron was at a popular night spot when he says he touched the man on the hip in order to squeeze past him, before finding himself under arrest.

He said the experience has left him 'broken emotionally' and facing a £32,000 legal bill, while his father Graham has urged tourists to avoid the city. 

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Ms Stirling said: 'He [the accuser] was saying things like "do you know who I am?"

His friends told him to drop the case, saying that it had gone too far, but he didn't.'

Mr Harron was arrested three months ago and released, but has been trapped in Dubai ever since because his passport was confiscated.

He appeared in court yesterday where he narrowly avoided going back to jail after missing an earlier hearing when the timing was changed at the last minute and his legal team were not informed.

Ms Stirling said more developments are expected in two weeks when Mr Harron goes back before a judge. 

Speaking about his ordeal on Sunday, Jamie, an electrician, said it has 'broken me financially and emotionally'.

Mother Patricia and father Graham, a caterer, say they have been left unable to sleep while worrying about their son.

Speaking to NGO Detained in Dubai, Graham said: 'Patricia and I have not been able to relax for a moment. We never dreamed we would have to face something like this. 

'We can't believe that this nightmare has gone on for three months. Jamie is a good boy. He has never been a problem and never in trouble. 

'We are a very close family and it is killing us to think of him spending even three nights in jail, let alone three years.'

The family say their finances have been left in tatters by the ordeal, which has cost them around £32,000 so far.

The problem was made worse when Jamie was sacked from his job amidst the proceedings, forcing him to rack up large credit card debts.

Graham also blasted the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for promoting Dubai as a holiday spot to British tourists, and failing to mention the risks faced by visitors.

'People have to stop visiting that country,' he said. 'Since Jamie was arrested, I have researched and found that this is more common than any of us think. It is unacceptable the FCO actually promotes the UAE to British tourists.'

Jamie added: 'The whole thing is like a horrible dream and I just don’t know when it is going to end. I thought it would be over by now but it feels like it will never be. 

'I am lucky I have friends to stay with but this has broken me, financially and emotionally. I am in debt because of the legal fees and won’t even be able to afford to appeal the case if it doesn’t go in my favour.'  

Jamie, an electrician, had been having a drink at the with friends at a popular venue for young people in the Tecom area of Dubai when the incident took place.

Mr Harron and friend had just bought their first drink when they noticed a Jordanian man who was looking over at them from the edge of the dance floor in a 'confrontational' manner.

They decided to move to avoid any aggravation, but Mr Harron had to walk past the man, and as he passed, he placed his hand on the right hand side of the top of the man's hip to ensure that when passing they didn't bump and spill drinks 'in a move familiar to most UK patrons of crowded pubs'.

While the man showed no sign of agitation as Jamie and his friend passed, he later became very animated before the police appeared outside.

The man went out to meet them, and he began animatedly talking with them, pointing at Mr Harron, who got up and went to see what the problem was.

The man, his friends and the police were all speaking in Arabic, the accuser occasionally shouting in English, 'He's been drinking, and he touched me improperly, I will get you deported, do you know who I am?'

The police asked Mr Harron to apologise which he 'gladly did'. But his accused was 'not mollified' and demanded police arrest him.

After days in Al Barsha prison, where he was not allowed to wash himself or brush his teeth, prosecutors told Mr Harron he was charged with drinking alcohol and 'public indecency.' 

When he was released to stay with friends his passport was seized by police.  

Detained in Dubai said Mr Harron had been to Dubai many times on holiday and 'knows and respects' the country's laws.

A spokesman for the group said: 'Jamie denies this latter charge vehemently, restating that his only intention was to avoid spilling a drink.

'Tourists who consume alcohol at licensed venues can still be arrested for having alcohol in their system. Most tourists are not aware of this fact. A number of British nationals have been caught out by this contradictory application of the law. 

'When Jamie was in his prison cell the night of the arrest, his friend accompanied him to the police station. The accuser and his friends were also there. 

The accuser's friends were telling him to just drop the matter, and that he had taken it too far. Jamie's friend was sitting next to them all and heard the whole discussion.

'Jamie's friend is acting as his witness, as is the sympathetic security worker of the pub where the incident happened. The bouncer saw the whole incident and confirms Jamie's version of events.'

Jamie's lawyer said: 'This is another example of how vulnerable tourists are to arrest and detention in Dubai and at how drawn out and legal proceedings are.

'We have received a wave of new cases of British nationals detained in Dubai and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office need to increase travel warnings to citizens intending to visit or live in the country. 

'If Jamie is sentenced to prison, he faces human rights violations and torture. The English High Court has ruled against extradition to the UAE based on the 'very real risk of unfair trials and torture' but the UK government has refused to increase warnings, largely due to their financial and diplomatic ties with the UAE.

"Both Jamie and his family are anxious for him to be back home in Stirling as soon as possible.'

His case follows that of Edinburgh plasterer Billy Barclay, 31, who was released this week after being held for trying to swap a £20 note, which he did not know was forged, at a bureau de change in Dubai.  

Tecom in Dubai

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Wednesday, 17 August 2022