Asa Hutchinson, 21, a British woman could be jailed in Dubai after witnessing an argument between some of her friends and a drunk Swedish man in a hotel lobby.
Hutchinson was arrested after a group of her male friends began taking selfies with the man in his 50s who had fallen asleep on a couch.
Asa said: “The man woke up and began punching the boys. I heard the commotion and came back to see what was going on.
“He called the police and made official complaints about the boys for taking pictures of him, and for being rude.”
Her friends have left the United Arab Emirates, but Asa now faces the possibility of a custodial sentence after being charged with assault and theft. The man lost his glasses while striking the boys, and is accusing Asa of having stolen them.
Dubai law states that the initial objector is most likely to be correct, so the man may not be punished for his actions.
He has since transferred the charges to Asa after learning that she lives in Dubai.
Asa added: “It is so unfair, I was not involved, I just happened to be there, but the police are not interested in anything I have to say.
“Once the man made his complaint it was taken as fact. I can’t go to jail, I couldn’t cope.”
Dubai police used information from the hotel reservation to contact the and a few days later the whole group found themselves at Bur Dubai police station.
Fortunately, they were able to pay a cash deposit to get their passports back before flying home.
Asa’s mum, Lucie Harrison, said: “You always worry about your kids, especially in these Middle Eastern countries.
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, the organisation representing Ms Hutchinson, said: ‘Visitors to the UAE need to be aware that justice does not operate the same way as it does in countries with mature legal systems.
‘In Dubai, if two parties are in dispute or arguing, the first person to speak to the police is usually the one who is believed.
‘Often it is a race to get to the police first.
‘By making this complaint, the man may have been safeguarding himself from being charged himself.
‘Also, it is clear in this case that Asa was a bystander, not involved with the fight and is only being victimised because the alleged culprits have left the country.’