x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Traveller accused of swearing at officer

An Australian private security contractor was arrested for allegedly swearing at a policeman at Dubai airport.

An Australian private security contractor was arrested for allegedly swearing at a policeman at Dubai airport. The 32-year-old man from Adelaide was travelling through Dubai International Airport on September 27, and was understood to be returning from a three-month stint in Afghanistan when he was stopped by a plain-clothes police officer.

An argument ensued and the Australian was detained for 24 hours, accused of using insulting and inappropriate language to a police official, according to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). He was released on bail the following day but his passport was confiscated and he was ordered not to leave the country. If convicted, he could face up to three years in jail. A DFAT spokeswoman confirmed the man had been detained and was receiving consular assistance.

"His passport was retained by the UAE authorities and his case has been referred to the public prosecutor," she said. "[He] most recently e-mailed the consular officer at Dubai Consulate General requesting consular assistance. " Mohammed bin Thani, the director of airport security at Dubai Police, confirmed that the incident took place but declined to give further information as he said the case was currently with the public prosecution service.

The DFAT spokeswoman added: "It's important to keep in mind that when Australians become involved in criminal or judicial process overseas, there is a limit on what the Australian government can do for them. "In particular, the government cannot interfere in judicial proceedings in a foreign country, just as we wouldn't welcome any attempt by a foreign government to interfere with the judicial processes in Australia."

The case echoes that of Nicole Stroop, a 34-year-old Canadian, who was arrested and had her passport confiscated for almost a month after a row with a high-ranking immigration official at the airport in October last year. She was not accused of swearing but was charged with being disrespectful towards an airport official. She also faced charges relating to drinking alcohol without a licence. The case was dropped and her passport was returned after she made a formal apology.

Ghadi Mathbout, a legal consultant with Al Maddfa Advocates and Legal Consultants, based in Abu Dhabi, said many visitors got into trouble because they failed to learn about the UAE's laws."The punishments are often more strict here than they are used to," he said. chamilton@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Wafa Issa