British family man Billy Barclay, who narrowly escaped jail in the UAE recently added his voice to the campaign to free fellow Brits held in Dubai. Jamil Mukadam and Jamie Harron both face jail for offences frighteningly easy for any Western visitor to fall foul of. Billy believes the FCO ought to be much more vigilant in its warnings to travellers, and helpful to those in trouble.
Billy Barclay is safely back home in Fernieside, Edinburgh. But Jamil Mukadam is stuck in Dubai facing jail for the reflex action of raising his middle finger to a driver who dangerously cut him off in the hectic Dubai traffic.
Jamie Harron is facing years of jail for the instinctive gesture of putting his hand out to prevent spilling drinks on a stranger.
If jailed, both face the strong possibility of human rights abuses and torture. A likelihood so strong that so far no British court has allowed extradition of its citizens, on the grounds that they face these specific threats in UAE jails.
Billy, speaking from his Edinburgh home sitting with his wife Monique, arms firmly round each other as though the fear of UAE 'justice' has not quite left them yet, told us, "I got out thank god, but I never would have if it wasn't for the efforts of Radha and her team at Detained in Dubai shining a light on my situation to the wider world. I've spoken to Jamil, the Leicester lad who raised his middle finger. I told him to be strong and that I know what he is going through. It's a scary thing to be in the custody of people with completely alien values to you, with no idea of your future.
"I want to tell Jamie, the young Scottish lad whose life is in tatters because of his instinct not to spill drinks on a stranger to be strong and trust Detained In Dubai to let the world know about his plight. Forget about the UK government sticking up for it's citizens, they are more bothered about their trade deals. The UAE might not care about people, but they care about their image. A lot of people are behind you son."
Billy added that his family would never risk the UAE again, despite liking much about the country. "We loved it at first," he says. "Then when we saw how easy it is for things to go wrong, we decided it's Mallorca from now on. You can't go wrong with Spain."
Jamil Mukadam, the Brit who showed his middle finger to a reckless driver has now been given court dates. His first hearing is on the 10th of October, the second hearing is a few weeks later and he will learn his fate a week after that. In a further dark twist, the complainant in Jamil's case has asked him for AED 75,000 (around £15,000) in exchange for dropping the charges. Jamil has no way to pay this as he is now in huge debt after having to support himself and his legal process in Dubai, so he has to wait and face the brunt of the UAE courts instead.
British IT worker Jamil Mukadam. Cut off by a dangerous driver he reflexively raised his middle finger in anger. Now he is being asked for money he can't pay from his accuser, or faces jail.
Jamie faces the courts tomorrow. The world's media is watching. Over 30 of the world's largest media outlets are all waiting to report how much understanding the UAE authorities show to this well intentioned young man inadvertently caught up in a world his life experience hadn't prepared him for.
Jamie Harron. Having fun and enjoying life until a cultural misunderstanding left him penniless and facing years in a desert jail.
Radha Stirling the CEO of Detained in Dubai, the British based NGO who led the media campaign that freed Billy Barclay and is currently fighting for Jamil and Jamie, had the following to say: "British people are surprised to learn that a seemingly modern country like the United Arab Emirates has such a backward law enforcement program that allows such abuse of visitors to the country.
"We hope that Jamil and Jamie will be released and start to rebuild their lives. We also urge the UAE government to take notice and improve its system.
"We have been contacted by a great many British nationals in similar desperate trouble, including a man arrested for drinking alcohol on an Emirates Airlines flight (which was sold to him by Emirates Airlines). he is currently on bail in Dubai but has lost his job in the UK.
"Although the British Consulate is keen to comment in every case that they are 'providing consular assistance' the extent of that assistance seems to be providing (not paying for) a list of local lawyers.
"The Foreign & Commonwealth Office needs to increase the travel warnings to UK citizens, as the UAE is statistically the country most likely for Brits to be locked up abroad. This is on a percentage of visitors basis. Currently over 1 million Brits visit the Emirates annually, and because of these recent cases many Brits have said they would reassess whether they would chance visiting the Emirates.
"Hundreds of British nationals languish in stifling desert jails, many convicted without evidence. A lot of our clients are only in prison because they have missed a credit card or loan payments. These are not even criminal matters in most countries. We have brought all cases to the attention of the UAE government, but without media coverage there is no response. It is sad that it takes the fear of losing British investment and foreign tourist money to elicit any action."
Radha Stirling, CEO of British based NGO Detained In Dubai. Supporting expats in legal trouble for over a decade