Clearly drinking in public or public drunkenness is frowned on in the United Arab Emirates, while women are generally expected to cover themselves when not at the beach or poolside when visiting Dubai. That’s simply a matter of respect. But, an Australian-British citizen is facing a potential year in prison for doing no more than sharing a fundraising link on Facebook, in violation of a new(ish) UAE law.
Raise money for Afghans, go to jail in Dubai
Scott Richards has been in jail since he was arrested on July 28th for “fundraising without permission,” a strange law put in place last year that prohibits fundraising without the permission of the Islamic affairs and charitable activities department in Dubai. The law specifically prohibits promoting any charity that isn’t registered in the United Arab Emirates. Apparently, the fact that Mr. Richards was simply sharing a link for a group, the Zwan Family Charity, looking to raise money for warm clothes including socks and sweaters for kids in Chahari Qambar refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan (a largely Muslim nation) made little difference in the eyes of the authorities. This is the same refugee camp that saw more than 100 children freeze to death a few years ago.
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The 42-year-old Richards has been living with his wife and two sons in Dubai while working and economic development advisor adding to the absurdity of the charges.
Presently, Richards is only allowed to change his clothes weekly and is forced to purchase food and water in the Al Muraqqabat police station where he’s now been “staying” for more than three weeks. Today, saw Richards formally charged with his crime that could see him receive up to a year in prison and a fine of up to 20,000 pounds sterling.
“His wife is under extreme stress,” Richards mother, Penelope Haberfield, told the BBC. “She can only take the clothes to him once a week. She takes him money so that he can buy water and extra food.
“She’s worried for him, she’s worried for herself because if she runs out of money, will she have to leave the country? She’s frightened for her children.”
“In a case like this where it’s so obviously unjust we are hoping for diplomatic intervention which the Australian government has done in the past,” says Radha Stirling from the group Detained in Dubai pointing out that the United Arab Emirates does not do nearly a good enough job telling the large expat community about laws like the one that sees Richards in jail.