London – A dentist has been left stranded in Dubai after allegedly breaking the country’s strict alcohol laws by drinking a glass of wine on the flight there.
Dr Ellie Holman and her four-year-old daughter BiBi were locked up in a ‘foul-smelling’ jail soon after arriving in the United Arab Emirates.
Immigration officials initially confronted Dr Holman for not having a valid visa. They then questioned the 44-year-old mother of three about her alcohol consumption, and she admitted having a glass of red wine which was served with her in-flight meal.
Although drinking alcohol is illegal in the conservative Arab state, it is served as standard on Emirates Airlines on flights from the UK to Dubai.
Dr Holman, of Sevenoaks, Kent, was locked up and charged with alcohol consumption. She has since been released on bail – but her passport has been retained by UAE officials. who have allegedly said her case could take a year to resolve.
Her husband Gary flew out leaving the couple’s other children – Suri, nine, and Noah, eight – with relatives. BiBi and her father have now been allowed to fly back to the UK while Dr Holman, a Swedish national, is staying with friends in Dubai.
Last night Dr Holman, 44, said she was ‘terrified’ of the impact her arrest would have on her daughter, who spent three days with her in jail. Dr Holman, who runs a dental practice, said: ‘I just want to go home.
‘I miss my family, especially my BiBi. Being in prison terrified me … I can’t imagine how this must have affected her.’
Dr Holman, who had flown to Dubai with her daughter for a five-day holiday, said she had visited the UAE several times and assumed her visa was still valid. Officials told her it could only be used for a single visit.
After asking if she could pay for a new visa, she was instead quizzed about her alcohol consumption. A test showed 0.04 per cent of alcohol in her blood – just half the UK’s drink-drive limit.
Mr Holman said: ‘Ellie is a sensible person and excellent mother who would never knowingly break the law. Why do Emirates Airlines serve alcohol?’
Radha Stirling of Detained In Dubai, a British human rights group assisting Dr Holman, said: ‘The UAE maintains a deliberately misleading facade that alcohol consumption is perfectly legal for visitors. This is [demonstrated] by bars at the airport, by hotels, restaurants and clubs serving drinks.
‘Tourists cannot be blamed for believing that the Emirates are tolerant of Western drinking habits but this is far from reality. It is wholly illegal for any tourist to have any level of alcohol in their blood … and if breathalysed, that person will be jailed.’
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: ‘Our consular staff spoke to BiBi’s father about what had happened. We gave him advice about the local procedures. We also spoke to the authorities in the UAE to confirm BiBi and her mother were being released.’