A British woman is facing two years in jail in Dubai for allegedly calling her ex-husband “an idiot” and his new wife “a horse” on Facebook, campaigners have claimed.
Laleh Shahravesh, 55, of Richmond, south west London, was arrested together with her teenage daughter at Dubai airport in March and now faces up to two years in jail and a fine of £50,000 for two Facebook posts she made while living in the UK in 2016, according to the Detained In Dubai campaign group.
The pair had been visiting Dubai for her ex-husband’s funeral after he died from a heart attack on March 3, campaigners say.
Her 14-year-old daughter was later allowed to fly home alone and is staying with relatives.
Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, told reporters in Luxembourg the government was “concerned” by the situation.
“Our diplomats in the UAE have enormous experience in dealing with consular cases as we saw from the Matthew Hedges case and so she is getting the best possible service from the FCO,” he said.
Hedges was pardoned by the UAE in 2018 after he had been given a life sentence for spying for MI6, which was denied by Britain.
A Foreign Office spokesman said its staff are supporting a British woman and her family following her detention in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The spokesman added: “We are in contact with the UAE authorities regarding her case.”
Shahravesh had been married to her ex-husband for 18 years, during which time she lived in the UAE for eight months.
She had returned to London with their daughter Paris, while her husband stayed in the UAE with a plan that he would join them later.
Shahravesh, who lives in Richmond, London and works in a homeless shelter, received divorce papers a few months later and, soon after that, saw photographs on Facebook which said that her husband had remarried.
It was then that she allegedly posted two online comments which were written in Farsi, including one which stated: “I hope you go under the ground you idiot. Damn you. You left me for this horse.”
The comments were made in 2016, the campaigners say.
Under the UAE’s cyber-crime laws, a person can be jailed and fined for making defamatory statements on social media.
In a statement released through the campaign group, Shahravesh said her ex-husband’s wife had reported her old Facebook post to the police before they arrived for the funeral.
She said: “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”.
Radha Stirling, who is the Detained In Dubai chief executive and is also representing Shahravesh, said the “experience is heartbreaking” for her client’s family.
She said Shahravesh’s daughter is writing a letter to the ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the UAE to appeal for her mother’s release.
Stirling added: “Every family member was teary and it was very emotional to speak with all of them.
“They are all extremely damaged by what has happened and I expect it will be a long and psychological recovery process for them.”
Shahravesh is currently staying in a hotel.
Stirling is calling on British officials to warn Britons about defamation and UAE’s cybercrime laws.