Dubai holiday warning as British mum arrested for calling love rival ‘horse’ on Facebook
Laleh Sharavesh, 55, has been separated from her 14-year-old daughter Paris and had her passport stripped of her after her ex-husband’s wife reported her to the police for the posts from 2016. Distraught Ms Sharavesh said: “I have lost everything because of this.” Legal experts today issued warnings to tourists heading for the United Arab Emirates, with new cyber crime laws “rendering almost every visitor to the country a criminal”.
Ms Sharavesh was heartbroken when she opened her Facebook page to see her husband Pedro marrying a Tunisian woman 10 years her junior, just months after she was served divorce papers out of the blue after returning to the UK from Dubai.
Her husband of 18 years, originally from Portugal, was due to reunite with her in the UK after completing work commitments with HSBC.
But Ms Sharavesh was blindsided when it emerged Pedro was leaving her and their 14-year-old daughter in 2016 for a woman named Samah Al Hammadi.
She lashed out on Facebook writing in two posts: “I hope you go under the ground you idiot. Damn you. You left me for this horse.
“You married a horse you idiot.”
Laleh Sharavesh and her daughter Paris
I am terrified. I can’t sleep or eat
Ms Sharavesh picked herself up to move on with her life in Richmond, London, where she works at a homeless shelter.
But after Pedro died from a heart attack last month, Ms Sharavesh and her daughter Paris flew to Dubai to attend his funeral, where she was arrested for the two posts.
Police demanded she find someone to care for Paris, but unable to do so officers stripped Ms Sharavesh of her passport leaving her stranded in the United Arab Emirates since their arrival on March 10.
She faces a £50,000 fine and up to two years in prison after Pedro’s new wife reported her to the police. Her daughter Paris had to fly home to the UK alone on their scheduled return journey five days later.
Ms Sharavesh said: “We were married for 18 years after all. And Paris wanted to say goodbye to her father.
Laleh Sharavesh’s accuser Samah Al Hammadi
“We flew to Dubai where we were intending to stay for just five days, and were arrested immediately upon entry because Pedro’s new wife Samah had reported my old Facebook post to the police.
“The police kept telling me to call someone to take my daughter while I went to Jebel Ali,” says Laleh. “But I don’t know anyone here well enough for that. Eventually they let us go, but kept my passport.
“I am not allowed to leave Dubai. I have been to court once, where I was not allowed to defend myself. And a police station where we were kept waiting for 12 hours without any progress. I am due in court again on Thursday the 11th of April and face a fine I can never pay plus jail.
“I am terrified. I can’t sleep or eat. I have gone down two dress sizes because of the stress. And my daughter cries herself to sleep every night. We are so close, especially since her father left us and we only have each other. It breaks my heart to be kept apart from her.”
Dubai’s strict cyber crime laws means old social media posts from before a person visits can see them heavily fined or jailed if they ever visit.”
She said she has lost everything. She added: “I have no money left after paying to stay in a hotel here for over a month. I have lost my job and am unable to pay for rent on the flat I live in with Paris, because of this we are about to lose the flat. I am even in debt to my family for over £5,000.
The Facebook post where Laleh Sharavesh called Samah Al Hammadi a horse
“My life is in ruins, and that is even before the huge fines and jail I am facing here. All of that is less important than being separated from my daughter, and that’s all I want now, just to be back with her.”
Ms Sharavesh’s sister Laden said she and Paris were kept in the police station for 12 hours, with no food for nine hours and little water.
Radha Stirling, CEO of human rights organisation Detained In Dubai is officially representing Ms Sharavesh.
She said: “I have spoken with Laleh, her mother, sisters and daughter Paris. Their experience is heartbreaking. Not only has Paris lost her father, but in going to visit him to say her final goodbye, she wound up in a frightening Middle Eastern police station, and is now without her mother.”
And she issued a warning to travellers, saying: “I have warned the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office that their advice to tourists is insufficient.
“When the UAE introduced Cybercrime laws, it rendered almost every visitor to the country a criminal. Visitors to Dubai are rightfully unaware that they could be jailed for a Facebook or Twitter post made from outside the jurisdiction of the UAE, and made years ago.
Laleh Sharavesh has been separated from her daughter Paris
“The UAE’s cybercrime laws apply extraterritorially and retroactively. The cybercrime laws prohibit sharing charities online such as Amnesty International, they prohibit fundraising, sharing photos taken in public, for example that includes a vehicle or other people. The laws further forbid anything “defamatory” against the UAE and this can even include the reporting of a news article and further prohibit the use of a VPN.”
She added: “Having looked at their advice today online, the advice is completely irresponsible and puts British nationals at risk of detention. The British government signed an MOU to assist the UAE in the marketing of their country in the UK, but have seemingly done nothing to ensure the protection of citizens abroad, not even an accurate travel warning.
“The UAE is the most likely place for British nationals to be arrested abroad and the Cybercrime laws have potentially rendered almost every visitor a criminal. The laws are enforced arbitrarily, which leads to even greater confusion over what is or isn’t a crime.”
Paris is writing to Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE to appeal for her mother’s release.
Ms Stirling added: “It is simply unreasonable that a country wishing to attract Western tourism arrests and charges a woman for a Facebook post made years ago from outside of the UAE’s jurisdiction. The post would never be prosecuted as a criminal offence in England, and if the UAE intends to detain tourists for posts made from England, it will find itself rendered a no go zone to foreigners.”