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    Case of UAE expat arrested over FB post an ‘unlikely’ scenario in Qatar

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    Photo for illustrative purposes only.
    Photo for illustrative purposes only.

    Following the reported arrest and deportation of an Australian woman from the UAE this week for sharing a photo of a car blocking two handicapped parking spots, Qatar’s former justice minister said the chance of a similar incident happening here is “highly unlikely.”

    Many Qatar residents have been reacting to news reports about the police action against the woman, calling it a cautionary tale for those living in the Gulf.

    Photo for illustrative purposes only.
    Photo for illustrative purposes only.

    The trouble started in February, when Jodi Magi posted the image on her Facebook page, and was taken to court by someone in her building who complained about the photo.

    The 39-year-old artist was tried and found guilty last month of posting “bad words on social media about a person” in an Abu Dhabi court.

    Under the UAE’s strict cybercrime laws, Magi was also ordered to pay a fine of some QR13,000 (US $3,600) and told that she would be soon deported.

    Arrest

    According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Magi then tried to “voluntarily deport” herself last week and pay the fine, but was told that she could not leave the country without appearing in court.

    When Magi did turn up to pay the fine on Monday, she said she was instead arrested and jailed.

    For illustrative purposes only.
    For illustrative purposes only.

    In a Facebook post today, Magi confirmed that she had been released and deported, saying:

    “After 53 hours in custody, having been shackled at the ankles, strip-searched, blood tested, forced to sleep on a concrete floor without a mattress or pillow and having no access to toilet paper or eating utensils, I can happily say I AM SAFE & OUT OF JAIL AND ABU DHABI!

    She continued:

    “If you think what happened to me was insane, spend a couple of days in an Abu Dhabi jail; I have nothing to complain about compared to the vast majority of women I met whose only crime was being poor, marrying the wrong guy, getting pregnant outside of marriage or/and being victims of rampant and systemic police corruption.”

    Reacting to the news in a post on the popular Facebook group When, Where and How in Doha, where residents regularly complain about bad drivers, several members questioned whether Magi’s punishment fit the crime.

    But other users said people should be more careful, given the UAE’s strict cybercrime law.

    “There is a law in UAE against posting such pics on facebook since some years now. Such pics are to be shared with the police to take action and not to be shared on the social media,” said woman.

    Qatar laws

    However, in an interview with Doha News today, criminal attorney and former justice minister Dr. Najeeb Al Nuaimi said that it was “highly unlikely” that an expat or Qatari would be arrested for posting a similar picture.

    That’s because Qatar and the UAE differ in their definitions of slander, libel and public shaming.

    “In the UAE, this (incident) is seen as ‘you’re showing someone in a bad light’ or that you’re questioning the duty of the police. They didn’t do their job well, and have let this happen, and now you’re posting it and offending them,” he said.

    MoI Capture and Send initiative for Metrash 2, drivers
    MoI Capture and Send initiative for Metrash 2, drivers

    Here, however, the local government would regard sharing such a photo as a “a mark of public service,” he added, continuing:

    “We have Qataris posting all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (about) things that they don’t like, or wrong things that they see…Here, it’s seen as doing something good.”

    He referenced the government’s Metrash 2 mobile phone app, through which residents are asked to take photos of and report vehicle violations.

    Earlier this year, residents questioned whether they could get in legal trouble for photographing bad drivers. In response, a traffic consultant told Doha News:

    “(Other drivers) can give you a hassle, but not legal problems … Once you commit a crime, you don’t have (a right to) privacy,” … This is not Dubai.”

    Al Nuaimi added, however, that under Qatar law residents could still be prosecuted for publicly shaming a person or a business.

    Last month, he also told Doha News that those who publish videos or photos of victims or pictures related to the personal lives of others without their consent or their family’s approval could be penalized under Qatar’s judicial system.

    Thoughts?

    16 COMMENTS

    1. The MOI’s app “Metrash 2” has a contact form with photo attachments, I’ve used it a few times to report violations.

      Posting violations online could be considered “publicly shaming a person” which is illegal.

    2. Anybody who thinks that this couldn’t happen is Qatar is only kidding themselves. If a complaint is made against you to the police by a Qatari you will have little say in the matter and treated as though you have already been judged as guilty. Even being found not guilty in court will still result in your deportation from Qatar.

    3. As a UK expat It’s impossible to judge a judiciary by anything other than the one in my home country, and from the many cases that are reported in DN plus the unhealthy influence exerted on it by the executive I can only conclude that I would never allow myself to get into a situation that would put me at the mercy of the judiciary of Qatar.

    4. I don’t trust the police or the justice system in Qatar. Best to stay out of any incident. You never know what could go wrong even if your photograph an illegal act. Deportation, jail, trapped in Qatar for years, you just never know.

      • I agree with you. In all fairness I don’t know whether this exact act would be deemed a crime in Qatar, but Al Nuaimi said himself previously that he doesn’t trust the judicial system in Qatar. Catch the judge at the wrong time of day and you could be deported for something as petty as jaywalking.

    5. There’s always a good and bad side in every country, in this country will only publicizes all the + side and those people against their rules are going behind bars…

    6. The FB group mentioned here has had to be very careful and has to monitor the posts on the page constantly for potentially defamatory or law breaking posts. Us Admins have a monumental task in self policing the content on the page. People need greater awareness that they are not in their home countries and that they can break laws very easily that they may not consider even mild insults back home. I encourage everyone to take a pause when thinking of posting things like this online. Metrash 2 gives you the potential outlet to report minor law infractions like this. I would encourage you all to use it.

    7. Anyone who thinks this couldn’t happen in Qatar has not observed the constantly fluctuating policies, laws and rules that have characterized the country over the last 15 years.

      Besides, people all over the world are being prosecuted for what they say/do with regard to social media. Happens in the West, too.

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