A U.K. dentist who was detained in a “hot and foul-smelling” Dubai jail with her four-year-old daughter after drinking a glass of free wine offered to her on an Emirates flight has finally been reunited with her family.
Ellie Holman, originally from Sweden, was facing a year behind bars after her arrest on July 13 in Dubai.
After landing in Dubai, Holman was informed that she had an invalid visa and would have to return to the U.K. immediately. During the exchange with an United Arab Emirates (UAE) official, which Holman briefly filmed, she was asked if she had consumed any alcohol. Holman was taken into custody soon after explaining that she drank a complimentary glass of wine during the flight.
Holman claims that she and her four-year-old daughter Bibi were forced to sleep on a “filthy mattress,” use a bathroom on the cell floor, and given inedible food that “smelled like rotting garbage.” Holman was also forced to clean toilets as her daughter watched, she said.
Holman has estimated that her detainment has cost her some 30,000 pounds in missed work and legal fees.
“I am shocked and excited to be returning home to England and that this nightmare is coming to an end,” said Holman of her release, according to The Guardian.
“They apologized on behalf of the immigration official and I was told that I was free on Sheikh Mohammed’s orders and welcome to return to Dubai. They helped me to arrange flights out of the country,” she added.
Human rights group Detained in Dubai slammed the UAE for the detainment. “We are very happy for Dr Holman that the government of Dubai decided not to pursue the charges they brought against her for consuming the complimentary glass of wine provided by their own government-owned airline,” said chief executive Radha Stirling, adding, “Obviously this case never should have happened, and Dr Holman and her four-year-old daughter should never have been detained and mistreated.”
“She should not have suffered the considerable financial loss incurred by her detention, and her daughter should never have been subjected to this needless trauma,” Stirling continued. “However, the fact is, that this case was not a ‘mistake’; it was perfectly in keeping with the confused laws of the UAE pertaining to alcohol, and what should never have happened will inevitably happen again to another unsuspecting traveller who accepts a free alcoholic beverage from Emirates Airlines on a flight to Dubai.”
Stirling warned foreigner travelers that the UAE engages in actions tantamount to entrapment. “They will offer you alcohol on their airline, and arrest you at the airport for accepting it.”
“So while we are happy for Dr Holman, we continue to fear for other travellers to and through the UAE who may well find themselves in legal trouble through no fault of their own,” added the human rights group.
Dubai’s Attorney General’s Office claims Holman “remained in airport security for less than 24 hours while services were provided to them, taking into full account and consideration of her 4-year-old daughter.”