British woman in Dubai faces jail time and $140,000 fine for rude WhatsApp message to her roommate

a sign in front of a tall building: The 31-year-old woman admits to sending the rude message to her former roommate last October. Getty Images

A British woman in Dubai has been told she could face up to two years in jail and a 500,000 AED ($136,129) fine for swearing at her roommate in a WhatsApp message, according to Mailonline.

The unnamed woman faces charges under the United Arab Emirate’s cybercrime laws, the news outlet reported. She is accused of writing “f— you” to her Ukrainian ex-roommate after arguing about the use of a dining room table, MailOnline’s Paul Thompson said. The 31-year-old woman admits to sending the rude message last October but prosecutors have yet to bring forward a formal legal case, according to MailOnline.

The prosecutors are waiting to file a forensic report on the woman’s phone before a case is brought forward, the news outlet said. The woman was arrested when trying to board a flight from Dubai International Airport to London’s Heathrow Airport, the Independent reported. She has since tried to contact her former roommate to resolve the situation but her request was rebuffed, the paper said. The British woman, who works as an HR manager, told MailOnline that she is low on money, couch surfing, and fearful of losing her job. “I’m banging my head against a brick wall,” she told the outlet.

Radha Stirling, CEO of the Detained in Dubai legal firm, has described the situation as a “nightmare.” In a press release , Stirling said: “The UAE has criminalized practically every visitor to the country under their vague and poorly drafted cybercrime laws. Today’s news really hit home for the woman, who has never been in trouble in her life. She continued: “She is entangled in an alien legal system and the seriousness of a simple WhatsApp message sent to a fellow European in the heat of an argument, is difficult to comprehend. It’s a nightmare for her.”

This is not the first time that a foreign national has been arrested under the UAE’s strict cybercrime laws. In 2019, Laleh Shahravesh was arrested for allegedly calling her ex-husband’s wife a “horse” on Facebook.

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