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Wed 4 Mar 2015 01:42 PM

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UAE expat faces trial over Facebook post criticising employer

US national faces fine of up to $50,000 and five years in jail for violating UAE cyber laws

UAE expat faces trial over Facebook post criticising employer
(Bloomberg - for illustrative purposes only)

An American citizen arrested in Abu Dhabi after he posted a Facebook post criticising his employers and made derogatory comment toward Arabs has been freed on bail pending a trial on March 17.

Ryan Pate, a civilian helicopter mechanic, returned to the UAE last month and received a call from Abu Dhabi Police to come to the station.

On arrival, police informed Pate that he was accused of violated the country's cyber laws for slandering his employer, who had brought the charges against him.

Now free on bail, the Florida native faces a fine of up to $50,000 and five years in jail.

US Representative David Jolly wrote to US Secretary of State John Kerry calling and UAE Attorney General, Ali Mohammed Abdullah Al Bloushi appealing for Pate’s release.

Jolly, in his letter to the UAE Attorney General, said Pate was arrested and charged for the Facebook message that he posted while on US soil.

“I fully understand the law of the UAE regarding social media and respect the sovereignty of your kingdom to defend and uphold its laws,” Jolly wrote in his letter.

“However, the Facebook messages that were posted by Mr Pate were written while he was residing within the United States. Under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, Mr Pate is protected under US law to freely express his opinion regardless of the content. As such it is deeply troubling that Mr Pate now faces judicial proceedings over an action that was done legally in his home country,” he added.

The charges of cyber slander against Islam and cyber slander against the UAE, have been dropped, according to reports, but Pate still faces charges of cyber slander against his employer and cyber slander against management.

Pate's case will heard on March 17 in Abu Dhabi.

Arabian Business digital magazine: read the latest edition online

Elizabeth 5 years ago

Doesn't matter where he was, if he did slander his former employer. If he was unhappy, he was free to leave anyway. Freedom of speech is one thing, but harming someone's reputation just because he feels he's untouchable, is not acceptable.

Hussein 5 years ago

Point of law: Slander is defamation via spoken word, whereas written (as in this case) is known as libel.

George Mwaniki 5 years ago

A slanderous comment doesn't matter whether is made in Mars. Be responsible on what you put across

Paul King 5 years ago

This is a normal mistake made by an individual living and enjoying freedom of speech in a democracy. Nations with a "Never criticise" culture don't enjoy the opinions of the free mind.

Elisabeth's criticizer 5 years ago

Of course it's acceptable, Elizabeth. Moreover, it's necessary and desirable. No one ever grew up or became better by not being criticized.

Freedom of speech IS exactly what this guy did. Employer can fire him for that, but no one should arrest him for that. It's ridiculous and dangerous.

Who can't handle criticism is not ready for this world and its humane achievements.

leo50 5 years ago

excellent comments from Criticizer. 100% correct. And to reinforce Hussein's point; it is libel and not slander!

Loy 5 years ago

Hussein rightly points out, it is fare to say (so to speak) that from a colloquial point of view, 'defamation' is predominantly oral, but of course it does also refer to something written. To use PC doctrine and speak which rules our very soul these days and evident from some comments here, this man was 'allegedly' libellous or 'libelous' on home ground.

Spot on (Elizabeth's Criticizer)! Loathed to be labeled Third World, the region and surround, despite prolific concrete development is just that; immature and stifled. Criticism of any type, flippant or extreme is deemed 'defamation' because any notion to accept responsibility for anything is still very much a myth. The irony being; both plaintiff and region governments fear the word 'libel'.
Foolishly reacting so stringently to something on Facebook or Twitter is proof in itself. However, this is now becoming so regionally common with many in prison, the adversity will rapidly overpower the essence of the protracted intent.

Criticizer of Elizabeth's criticizer 5 years ago

If a person makes "derogatory comment toward Arabs" then he should not return to Arab countries, or if he does then be ready to answer to the authorities as per laws of the land.
But to think you can come to Arab countries, make your $$$$$, and then return home and start slandering the people that "fed you" then think again Mr. Pate.

SAM 5 years ago

Would penalties also apply if you press the "Like" button pertaining to a comment made by someone else? Would you be deemed to have "Liked" the entire comment, or can you say you "Liked" a certain aspect of it? Interesting point for those arguing the libel nature of the crime.