Laleh Shahravesh, 55, has been in Dubai since March 10, when she was arrested at the airport along with her teenage daughter for violating the country’s cybercrime laws, according to a legal campaign group.
The complaint was made by her ex-husband’s new wife over comments Shahravesh made on social media more than two years ago while in London.
Shahravesh was arrested when she flew out from London to attend the funeral of her Portuguese ex-husband, Pedro Dos Santos, according to the legal support organization Detained in Dubai.
They had been married for 18 years, spending the majority of that time in the UK.
In 2016, after living in Dubai for eight months where he worked for a bank, she returned to the UK, expecting her husband to follow.
Instead, he filed for divorce a few months later.
Shortly after, on Oct. 7, 2016, she was shocked to see pictures on Facebook of her ex-husband’s wedding to a 42-year-old Tunisian woman.
She posted two comments in Farsi. One said, “I hope you go under the ground you idiot. Damn you. You left me for this horse.”
The other said, “You married a horse you idiot.”
Dubai’s cybercrime laws mean that an old social media post from before a person visits can result in a heavy fine or years in jail if they ever visit.
According to Detained in Dubai, she faces a jail sentence of two years and a fine of 50,000 pounds.
“I am not allowed to leave Dubai,” Shahravesh said in a statement released by Detained in 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.”
Shahravesh was arrested at the airport with her daughter Paris, when they flew in to attend her ex-husband’s funeral after he died of a heart attack.
“We were married for 18 years after all. And Paris wanted to say goodbye to her father,” she said. “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.”
She said that the police wanted to take them straight to jail in Jebel Ali, but didn’t want the negative publicity of jailing her 14-year-old daughter.
“The police kept telling me to call someone to take my daughter while I went to Jebel Ali,” she said. “But I don’t know anyone here well enough for that. Eventually they let us go, but kept my passport.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement to the Telegraph newspaper: “Our staff are supporting a British woman and her family following her detention in the UAE. We are in contact with the UAE authorities regarding her case.”
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, is officially representing Shahravesh. She said in a statement, “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.”
Stirling told BBC News that both her organization and the Foreign Office had asked the complainant to withdraw the allegation, but she had refused.