Asa Hutchinson, the British girl facing jail in Dubai for the crime of being a witness to a scuffle in a hotel lobby tells of her distress over the possibility of years in jail.
The 21 year old accounts manager from Chelmsford in Essex, who went to Dubai because of the opportunities the glamorous Middle Eastern city seemed to offer, has been living in fear of jail for almost a year now. Asa had friends visiting her in 2016, and during their stay, they decided to attend one of the alcohol fuelled brunches for which the city is famous.
When leaving, some of the boys found a middle aged Swedish tech company boss allegedly passed out drunk on a sofa in the hotel lobby and took selfies with him. The Swede woke up furious and began punching the boys, who ran away and caught up with Asa outside.
Asa had seen none of the selfies, but did see the boys being hit by the older man. The boys managed to flee Dubai before being arrested, and so the Swede laid all the charges on Asa.
Asa has been waiting to find out her fate ever since. The charges warrant jail under Dubai laws, despite the fact that Asa herself had done nothing illegal.
Upon her arrest Asa was put under extreme pressure to sign lengthy legal papers written only in Arabic. “I was told to sign the papers, or I would be going straight to prison,” Asa tells us. “By this stage I was terrified. I had no choice but to sign those papers. I was so scared of prison.”
Radha Stirling CEO of Detained in Dubai, the NGO representing Asa, had this to say, “Asa’s experience echoes that of countless others. A conspicuously high number of cases in the UAE are concluded as a result of suspects’ ‘confessions’ often in lieu of any other type of evidence collected through investigation. Suspects are put under extreme pressure to sign ‘confessions’ in Arabic. We have even seen cases where suspects were forced to sign blank documents upon which the police later wrote their ‘confessions’. These invalid confessions carry decisive weight in trials, despite the coercion used to obtain them.
“Like Asa, any expat is terrified in such a situation. Westerners need to bear in mind that the legal system in the UAE has a long way to go before it is as modern as the skyline”.
Iain Hutchinson, Asa’s father expressed his family’s anguish in a statement, “Asa is a young girl in a foreign country, being subjected to a legal system not at all like what we are accustomed to. We understand how perturbed the complainant in this case, Mr Bjorn Roden, must have felt when the incident occurred, but Asa is innocent, and we ask him to show some compassion for our daughter and drop his complaint before she winds up in jail for something she didn’t do”.