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Dubai: 4 years in jail for stepping on cannabis

Briton jailed for speck weighing 0.003g (under his shoe)

     
6:27 am on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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A father-of-three who was found with a microscopic speck of cannabis stuck to the bottom of one of his shoes has been sentenced to four years in a Dubai prison. Keith Brown, a council youth development officer, was travelling through the United Arab Emirates on his way back to England when he was stopped as he walked through Dubai's main airport.

A search by customs officials uncovered a speck of cannabis weighing just 0.003g - so small it would be invisible to the naked eye and weighing less than a grain of sugar - on the tread of one of his shoes. Dubai International Airport is a major hub for the Middle East and thousands of Britons pass through it every year to holiday in the glamorous beach and shopping haven.

But many of those tourists and business travellers are likely to be unaware of the strict zero-tolerance drugs policy in the UAE.

..Mrs Wolthuizen added: "We even have reports of the imprisonment of a Swiss man for 'possession' of three poppy seeds on his clothing after he ate a bread roll at Heathrow. ..


[dailymail.co.uk...]
2:49 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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This makes no sense, how did they find it?

Why were they testing for microscopic traces of anything?

There is an air of shenanigans in this story.

5:21 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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The poppy seed story appears far fetch, but it was proven on myth busters. You can actually register for opium use by eating a poppy seed bagel.

I thought Dubai was a civilized nation. Convicting people who have microscopic traces of pot on their shoes, is incredibly stupid.

I know I won't be visting Dubai soon. Walk down the street, pick up a trace of pot or eat a poppy seed bagel, bam you are in jail for four years.

5:33 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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There are tons of outrageous stories about this happening in Dubai.

In most countries, this insane level of enforcement would be a pretext for receiving bribes directly or maybe negotiating favorable deals with the hostage's home country. But in Dubai, they're dead serious about it. They just seem to get a kick out of the moralistic fervor.

5:43 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I remember having this: "But Dubai is liberal; they close an eye to drinking etc..." conversation here. Well, think again. Just becuase it hasn't happened to you yet, it means nothing. Also, if it is written down, it still is the law.

On one hand they are trying to attract people to waste millions of $ in 130 degree desert, and now they look for an excuse to lock you up. Where I live, summer time, people light up joints on the street, and I am positive I have residue on my shoes, smoke in my jacket etc.

5:53 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I know I won't be visting Dubai soon.

Me too. This is insane!

6:02 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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[news.bbc.co.uk...]
Taken to Dubai hospital; given codeine by docs there; jailed!
7:07 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I can't stop smiling at some of the comments made on the thread. There has to be more to the story anyway. Look at the following widely reported news.

Dubai declares national holiday for Bush visit [cnn.com]

Wrong, it was not declared for the respect of the man. A city of 4 million with the majority being expats can't halt everything for the reasons of respecting a single person. But what happened was, the route they planned the president to travel was a heavy traffic area and most of the main roads had to be shut down, this prompted of the govt asking the people at the last minute to stay at home. If it was very well planned, we could have possibly known it at least a week ahead. This is to show you there could always be something more behind the stories being reported.

I am positive I have residue on my shoes, smoke in my jacket etc.

I don't believe they would want to punish you for that, but you are passing through a nation having zero tolerance to drugs. They want it that way, so we probably need to help them do that.

But you can drink in Dubai, the problem comes when you drink and drive, you could go to jail for few months and then deported. If you are convicted for anything, you could always see "to be followed by deportation". They are actually too obsessed with that part, I read on a newspaper the other day, which basically says the person to be jailed for life follwed by deportation :)

Walk down the street, pick up a trace of pot or eat a poppy seed bagel, bam you are in jail for four years.

really, :)?

I bet they drug you and steal your kidneys over there too.

:) really, I can assure you, you are more likely wake up with an extra kidney.
7:16 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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That's it. I'm not going to the New Year's Fireworks now!
7:36 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I don't believe they would want to punish you for that, but you are passing through a nation having zero tolerance to drugs. They want it that way, so we probably need to help them do that.

OK, so, do I believe all these news stories or your "I don't believe" statement? As far as helping them, yes, I will help them by staying the h-ll away from them.

Here's from the US Embassy:

U.A.E authorities have been known to arrest travelers upon their arrival into the U.A.E and, based on recent prior drug use, to prosecute these travelers.

[dubai.usconsulate.gov...]
8:04 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Walkman, they want a zero-tolerance policy to drugs. come clean, is that too much to ask :)
8:38 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Walkman, they want a zero-tolerance policy to drugs. come clean, is that too much to ask :)

Yes, it is. When they are looking for microscopic traces of something. The dude clearly had no intention of breaking the law, hence the reason they needed a microscope to find "his stash" .. on the bottom of his shoe. I hope they dont start testing American money people carry into that country, because all American cash has drug residue on it. ... Actually, I take that back... I hope they do start testing for it. It will expose this farce for what it is.

For a country that is banking on tourism for its long term future, this is suicidal.

How you can defend this insanity is beyond me.

9:00 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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He's welcome to defend it, as he lives in Dubai. I don't see how dismissing the news reports out of hand or finding them humorous is appropriate, though.
9:08 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Walkman, they want a zero-tolerance policy to drugs. come clean, is that too much to ask

More like come after living in a buble for at least a year. I think you missed the point: tiny spec under the shoe one cannot see...not exactly a stash ready to be consumed. I don't have a team of DEA officers making sure I don't step on a "banned" substance in the years preceding my visit to Dubai. But, then it is their country, their rules and my money my decision.

One would be crazy to think it's the Vegas of the Arab world everything thinks it is though.

2:32 am on Feb 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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For those who don't know, "The Daily Mail" is, outside anything the British National Party or Combat 18 publishes, the UK's most xenophobic rag. It's always worth considering the news owner and the news owner's agenda, when reading "the news".
4:47 am on Feb 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Ronin, this is also on BBC and dozens of other sites: [news.google.com...]
6:57 pm on Feb 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Ronin - I consider myself right wing (Daily Telegraph reader) but even I find that vile rag beyond the pale, its just full of hate, nasty little thing.

I thought Dubai was a civilized nation - Makes me wonder just why they are holding him, I wasnt aware of any problems withthe UK govt and Dubai.

[edited by: Essex_boy at 6:57 pm (utc) on Feb. 9, 2008]

7:58 pm on Feb 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Agree EB

I wonder if it is like the English lass who turned up at the US customs and when questioned about what she would be doing here, responded with something about bombs (this is after 9-11). I believe she was held for several hours and then kicked out of the country.

I saw a guy (when we were going thru Moscow) being "smart" to the custom's questions. Customs took him aside and took out every piece of item from his baggage and put it on a table and after gave him a full body search.

Wouldn't be surprised if things are being said that the Dubai customs guys felt offended about.

As in another thread - don't really trust the news reported in news papers. They are always written in a way to evoke emotions. Better to question folks in the country to get a better understanding of what has happened.

8:00 pm on Feb 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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p.s. - at least he was only jailed.....in other Asian countries it is the death penalty
9:25 pm on Feb 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Which is why I only visit civilized countries where people are presumed innocent until guilty.

Dubai was a British protectorate for 200 years, you would think they would have caught on to the basic premise of British law.

10:44 pm on Feb 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Monkey, are you suggesting this person is getting what they deserve?
11:31 pm on Feb 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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It's not just "this person" anyway, it's many people -- although being arrested for having an invisible speck of cannabis on the sole of your shoe is a pretty egregious example.

But there are other stupidities, such as arresting people for "possession" of a banned substance if they can even detect traces of it in your bloodstream when you arrive - hence the paranoia about poppyseed rolls. The BBC reported on one woman who had been taken to hospital in Dubai and given an injection of codeine by doctors -- and as a result was arrested and jailed for two months.

4:46 am on Feb 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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They might have taken it a little too far, I think. For anyone travelling, here are the list of banned pharmaceuticals. [fairtrials.net]

While many other countries also apply controls to the following drugs, UAE is unusual in conducting extremely thorough searches of many travellers through its airports, with highly sensitive equipment.

If you must take medication, make sure:
1. It is not on the banned ‘Narcotics’ list;
2. You have a prescription for it – even if you bought it over-the-counter.

7:12 am on Feb 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Which is why I only visit civilized countries where people are presumed innocent until guilty.

You must have had a pretty small list since 2001, then.

This looks like soft economic sanctions to me. Nothing has changed in Dubai. The only thing that is different is what you now know about Dubai which you didn't know before. The reason you know it is because someone made a decision to make that knowledge much more public to mass media consumers than it usually is.

7:34 am on Feb 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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The only thing that is different is what you now know about Dubai which you didn't know before.

In all fairness Ronin, those people do change and have been doing so for a few decades. There are a few more significant progresses in free press and human rights and those are not something you can deny.

And no need to mention that there are a few things which I don't want to hear from reporters, which I am able to see for myself.

The drug possession issue has been handled way too strictly it seems they are punishing all the criminals and a few more innocent people.

It is not anymore always the deserts of the middle east, the forests of Africa, the high-rises of the west: there is a little more to every story which the media won't be anyway telling you.

2:23 pm on Feb 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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2. You have a prescription for it – even if you bought it over-the-counter.

How does one get a prescription for something that does not require a prescription?

Makes no sense and once again shows the stupity of these laws.

I really hope people stop going there in droves, although I suspect that few people are actually going there from western countries anyways. Evertime I see a picture of a beach or a street in Dubai it looks empty, like a ghost town. I suspect the place has been overbuilt just to stroke somebodies ego.

4:45 pm on Feb 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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In all fairness Ronin, those people do change and have been doing so for a few decades.

I'm not sure I follow, Habtom.

The point I'm making is that this example demonstrates how remarkably easy it is to manipulate the views of mass media consumers.

If you were planning in January to go to Dubai at some point this year and now having read this story, you've changed your mind, I humbly suggest you're being played like a puppet.

Much like those people who decide not to go somewhere when Travel Advisories are suddenly issued (when no such advisory existed before).

This story is, I suspect, as I wrote above, an example of soft sanctions.

I'll clarify my point: Nothing has changed in Dubai with regard to anti-drugs policy or the strictness of it. The only thing that has changed is that the existence of the anti-drugs regime in Dubai has just been given a massive injection of publicity by the UK media.

So you need to ask yourself why the story is being published now and what's the objective behind such publication.

And if you weren't planning to go to Dubai, what difference does the story make anyway? Is Dubai a worse or a better place now than it was before you read the story? Is it simply that someone wants you to think differently about Dubai from the way you thought about it last month? If so, why?

7:50 pm on Feb 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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The point I'm making is that this example demonstrates how remarkably easy it is to manipulate the views of mass media consumers.

You're overintellectualizing. I think you've become locked in your irony tower.

As it happens, some things in the world really do exist in external reality, irrespective of which newspaper is doing the reporting. Personally I'm not that interested in whether such events always took place and are only now being reported. I'm not that interested in whether the Daily Mail are hoping I'll react in a certain way. I'm capable of accepting each of these (numerous) stories as individual data points, to be judged on their individual merits.

The point of the story is, this type of behaviour exists, it's arbitrary and gleefully excessive, and if you you travel to Dubai then there's a certain small but random chance that you'll become the victim of it.

12:10 pm on Feb 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

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This made it to the front page of one of the widely distributed news papers here in Dubai. It was more of a warning to the people traveling to Dubai by pointing out the fate of the 59 British caught with drugs last year including the Candian who was later pardoned.

It also says 4 years prison sentence is if it wasn't meant for private consumption. If you are involved commercially and caught doing so you would be sentenced for a life time.

My guess is they will make it less strict than it is now, but it is good to know drugs should not be carried to the UAE airports no matter if your destination is Dubai or you are just on a transit, neither they should be consumed for days before arriving here (if you are coming :)).

2:14 pm on Feb 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

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neither they should be consumed for days before arriving here (if you are coming :)).

Are they taking urine tests of everyone who arrives? Blood tests?

If you legally take an opiate in the form of an aspirin in a western country, then two days later you are transfering to another flight in Dubai ... how is that the business of the Dubai government?

Seems to me they are trying to control behavior in countries where they have no jusidiction. I still contend, these laws are insane and there is no civilized defense for it.

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