Parents of Asa Hutchinson, trapped in Dubai, seek Priti Patel’s support to bring her home following false allegations in the tourist hotspot.
21 Year old Asa Hutchinson is facing prison in Dubai for being in the vicinity of a dispute between some young British boys and Swedish IBM executive, Bjorn Roden. Asa’s parents, Ian and Lucie, attended Parliament with Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai who is representing Asa, along with her Stirling Haigh partner David Haigh to meet Rt. Hon Priti Patel MP, the former International Development Secretary to discuss what possible assistance or intervention the UK government could undertake.
Mother Lucie and Asa Hutchinson
Asa’s ordeal started when her friends had taken photos of a man who was asleep on the sofa of a hotel lobby, reportedly “drunk”. The group said that when he awoke, he was enraged and began chasing the boys and attacking them. Asa “heard the commotion and came back to see what was going on”. Asa had not partaken in taking photographs nor was she involved in the subsequent scuffle. The extent of her involvement was to pick up a pair of broken glasses and put them in a nearby bin.
Being a witness to an incident in Dubai can have serious consequences and in this case, Asa was accused of assault and theft, all because she was “there”. Meanwhile, the boys managed to exit the UAE, leaving Asa as the sole defendant. Asa and her family have appealed to Mr Roden to drop the charges against her but all requests have been met with silence.
Asa’s parents, Ian and Lucie are doing everything they can to try to get their daughter home, and the fear that she could face imprisonment in the middle eastern country is constant. With no movement in Asa’s case and minimal assistance from the FCO, they contacted their MP, Priti Patel for help. Ms Patel’s offices were very responsive and invited Ian, Lucie and Detained in Dubai to meet in person and said in a statement "I have been working with and supporting the parents of my constituent, Asa Hutchinson, who is currently resident in the United Arab Emirates, facing charges for a series of unsupported allegations.
I have been making direct representations on behalf of Asa and her family with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, at both the Ministerial level and with civil servants working on this case. It is imperative that all sides undertake renewed efforts to engage with one another, in order to remove the current anxiety over Asa's future, to clear her name from any allegations associated with her and to ensure that she can return to her daily life.
I have specifically pressed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK Embassy in Dubai to utilise the strong working relationship the British Government has with the UAE, to engage directly with the Emirati authorities on this case. I welcome the UK Government's commitment to ensure that Asa's case is discussed at every instance where officials and Minister's both the UK and the UAE are meeting with one another, in order to facilitate an amicable resolution.
In my capacity as Asa's Member of Parliament, I will be continuing to actively support her and her family throughout this case and will ensure that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK Embassy continue in their efforts to resolve this matter - Priti Patel, MP.
Lucie told Detained in Dubai “Ian and I were very relieved and pleased that Ms Patel is supporting Asa. We are so very hopeful that Asa will be home sooner rather than later, but she is on our mind all day every day and we can not rest with the idea that our daughter could actually be jailed for something she didn’t do”.
Radha Stirling, who has helped in excess of ten thousand foreigners facing problems in the UAE, said in a statement “To date, Mr Roden continues with his course of action against our client, Asa Hutchinson. This case highlights just how easily foreigners can get into trouble in Dubai. Asa’s detention comes after a stream of other high profile cases including Jamie Harron, Billy Barclay, Jamil Mukadam, Scott Richards and Yaseen Killick. Despite the obvious need for judicial reform in the United Arab Emirates, little has been done to protect visitors from wrongful accusations and detentions. The UAE has pumped its money into marketing the country to tourists while investing little in the legal infrastructure required to protect them. Until significant change is made, the country will remain an incredibly risky place to visit, live, or do business in”.
David Haigh, Joint Managing Partner at Stirling Haigh and former MD of Leeds United, was himself detained in the UAE on wrongful allegations of twitter abuse. After five months of detention, he was finally exonerated. David commented “Wrongful detentions of British nationals are clearly commonplace in Dubai. Ms Stirling and I were pleased to meet with Asa’s parents and Ms Patel to see how we can work more productively with the UK government on cases of injustice”.
A date for Ms Hutchinson’s case has not yet been provided by the UAE authorities and she is forced to stay in the country for an indefinite period of time. Asa’s worry is growing as she had hoped she would be home by Christmas, “The reality has hit me. I may face prison for something I didn’t do and there is no clear outcome or timeframe. This is not how I expected to spend the past few months, I can hardly believe it is happening, how is this even possible?”
The detention of Asa Hutchinson is every parent’s worst nightmare when their children travel abroad. Asa had acted responsibly, was not drinking and was following local laws when she was arrested. She can not be accused of reckless behaviour, of failing to respect local customs or culture. She was arrested simply because she witnessed an incident that one man reported to the police. It is this arbitrary application of the law that makes Dubai a high risk tourist destination.
It is no surprise that the UAE is the “most likely destination for British nationals to be arrested abroad”.
Notes: Official Statement of Priti Patel's office is attached in PDF format.