American woman on trial for 'insulting' UAE

American woman on trial for 'insulting' UAE
A 25-year-old woman appeared in court on misdemeanour charges for allegedly insulting the United Arab Emirates in public while waiting for a taxi at the Abu Dhabi International Airport.
2 min read
12 April, 2016
Defamation is treated in the UAE as a criminal rather than a civil matter [Getty]

A woman from the United States, who has been in custody for seven weeks in Abu Dhabi for allegedly insulting the UAE and its leaders, appeared in court on Monday.

The unnamed 25-year-old is charged with "verbally insulting the country and its leaders" and has been in custody since February 23. 

She told the Federal Supreme Court that she was waiting for a taxi at the airport when two men approached and spoke to her in a manner she did not like.

"The men tried to help me. I had another flight to catch at 1:29am. I refused to engage with them and nothing happened," English-language daily The National cited the defendant as saying.

The woman told the court she did not know why she was on trial, asking the judge if she could pay a fine and leave. But her case is being treated as a formal misdemeanour.

A verdict is set for May 2.

While liberal on some issues, the UAE has strict laws governing expression.

Unlike in many Western countries, defamation is treated in the UAE as a criminal rather than a civil matter. Insulting the UAE's leaders, or the country itself, can carry a prison sentence and steep fines.

In 2013, a 29-year-old US citizen from Minnesota was tried under a cyber-crimes law and accused of defaming the country's image abroad for posting a spoof video online about youth culture in the UAE. He spent nine months in prison before being deported and fined $2,700.