On August 9th the two, a "feminine looking" man and his transgender friend,were arrested in an Abu Dhabi shopping Mall for, according to court documents, “wearing women's clothes in public and for behaving indecently".
After two weeks of detention and lack of access to legal help or the media, photographer Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman, 26, and Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, 37 appeared in court and were each sentenced to a year in a tough UAE jail.
On August 27th after massive international pressure led by Detained in Dubai, a British human rights NGO, and friends and activists in the gay and transgender community, the pair had their sentences commuted to Dh10,000 fine and deportation from the Emirates.
Detained in Dubai has a well established history of positive outcomes in media campaigns. Radha Stirling, the organisation's CEO says, “thankfully our team’s involvement has helped to get the sentences reduced. This case is not a stand-alone and the global LGBT community will be watching the outcomes of similar cases closely.”
Last year, Detained in Dubai used media campaigning to secure a small fine to a British man accused of cross-dressing in Dubai, sparing him any detention. He was fined 5,000 dirhams and also deported.
Stirling continues, “we have succeeded in a number of cases in the past through our broad spectrum campaigns, not only do we fight on behalf of individuals and causes, but also to affect laws and abuse of international law in The Emirates. For instance, we have raised the issue of UAE banks using Interpol Red Notices as debt collection notices - these have been impacting negatively on a growing number of people, who come to us for help”.
“We use media to highlight corruption within the UAE court system. By spotlighting these irregularities and injustices, attention and pressure can be sought from the international community to bring the UAE legal system into the 21st Century”.
Campaigns by Detained in Dubai include Scott Richards, an Australian & British National who was arrested, detained and charged under the UAE´s relatively new Cybercrime Laws for supporting a charity on social media that was not registered in the UAE. Richards' case attracted the attention of the international media due to the absurd nature of the charges and the fact that half of all Facebook users are potentially also in breach of these peculiar laws.
Another successful media campaign was central to the freeing of three British plane spotters who had been held in prison in the United Arab Emirates for eight weeks on accusations of espionage. The case resulted in all three being released without charge.
The high profile campaign to free Australian Matt Joyce from a Dubai jail was heavily reliant upon maintaining a huge social media presence spanning several years.
These cases, among many others, show the effectiveness of organisations like Detained in Dubai on seemingly closed cases, they demonstrate that international public opinion, when channelled through media, can advance the modernisation and accountability of courts and legal systems around the world.
With each new person watching and getting involved, corruption stands less chance of success everywhere.