from the fighting-crime dept.
AP reports that Ryan Pate, a helicopter mechanic, took to Facebook while in Florida after a dispute over sick leave with his company and when he returned to Abu Dhabi last month, he was told to report to the police station, where he was arrested for breaking a United Arab Emirates law on slandering his employer. Pate was shown screenshots of the Facebook message and told his employer had filed charges accusing him of breaking wide-ranging Emirates laws that ban slander. The laws were introduced in late 2012 and make it an offense to use the net to mock or deride organizations and individuals. Pate spent about 10 days in jail and is now free on bail awaiting a March 17 trial. His supporters say he faces up to five years in prison and a steep fine if convicted. "I just couldn't register it in my head because as an American growing up in the United States, the First Amendment right is just ingrained in my brain," says Pate. "I never even entertained the fact that I would wind up in prison out here for something I put on Facebook in the United States."
Pate's congressman, Rep. David Jolly, intervened on his constituent's behalf, lobbying the State Department and Emirates officials for help. In a letter to the Emirati attorney general, Jolly emphasized respect for the sovereignty of the country, but argued because the posts occurred while Pate was on American soil, those laws shouldn't apply. "It is deeply troubling that Mr. Pate now faces judicial proceedings over an action that was done legally in his home country," says Jolly. Speaking via phone from his apartment in Abu Dhabi, Pate was remorseful. “I just want to apologize to everybody I dragged into this,” he said. “It is embarrassing, and I never meant for this to happen. I let my emotions get the better of me.”