Brit mum jailed in Dubai for drinking single glass of wine on Emirates plane feared she’d be raped after being told guards were sex attackers – as she pleads to come home
Ellie Holman, 44, from Sevenoaks, Kent, was arrested by immigration officials after her eight hour flight touched down at Dubai International Airport.
The dentist claims she was thrown in a "baking hot and foul smelling" airport detention centre with her four-year-old daughter Bibi.
There she says she heard accounts from other inmates of being raped by guards and tried to keep her daughter out of sight.
She faces spending up to a year in the strict Arab state while she waits for her case to be settled.
Meanwhile her daughter has returned to the UK with her husband Gary.
"I just want to go home. I miss my friends and I miss my family, especially my Bibi," the mum-of-three told the MailOnline.
"Being in prison terrified me as a grownup, I can't imagine how this must have affected her. I just want to be home and safe with Gary and all my children.
"My family in England have it tough too, not knowing if I will end up in prison. I am taking this one moment at a time, anything more than that I am in tears."
Dr Holman's nightmare began on July 13 when an official informed her that her visa had expired and she'd have to return to London immediately.
But the thought of getting back on the long-haul flight with her young daughter was "unthinkable" and she got in a tense standoff with the officer.
She said he then began to quiz her over whether she had been drinking.
Dr Holman, who is originally from Sweden, said: "Yes, I had a glass of wine on the flight. Given to me free by Emirates Airline staff."
The official informed Dr Holman that possession of alcohol is a crime in the UAE, even if it is inside a person’s body.
Dr Holman then began filming him for evidence she was swarmed by armed police.
The frightened pair were then led to an airport cell and had their phones and passports confiscated before being taken to a police station.
He told Dr Holman to come with him and for two hours she and her daughter were left alone in the cell.
How Brit tourists can be arrested for drinking alcohol on flights to Dubai
Detained In Dubai have said Brits travelling to the UAE should be aware it is illegal to have alcohol in their blood even if consumed on the flight there.
The conservative Islamic country has strict laws on alcohol consumption which allow foreigners to drink in designated, private areas such as hotel bars, after obtaining a permit.
But airlines flying there offer a wide range of alcohol on board and allow passengers to carry it in their luggage.
Passengers who fall foul of the authorities can find themselves also being charged for breaking the country’s alcohol laws if they have alcohol in their blood.
British engineer Terry Harrison was jailed for three months hit the headlines after the 40-year-old was found guilty of groping an air stewardess during an Emirates’ flight from Bangkok to Dubai.
He was also charged with breaching UAE laws as he had downed vodka without a licence.
“The UAE maintains a deliberately misleading facade that alcohol consumption is perfectly legal for visitors,” said Radha Stirling, chief executive of Detained In Dubai.
“It is wholly illegal for any tourist to have any level of alcohol in their blood, even if consumed in flight and provided by Dubai’s own airline."
“Tourists cannot be blamed for believing that the Emirates are tolerant of Western drinking habits but this is far from reality.
Stirling said it was time for airlines serving the UAE to stop serving alcohol to passengers.
“If consumption of alcohol is illegal in the UAE, airlines are complicit in serving alcohol to their passengers and need to be accountable and liable for their actions,” she said.
Eventually the police and immigration staff came back.
This time they were friendlier though Dr Holman believes this was so she did not make a fuss as they were led through the airport.
The police apparently took Dr Holman and Bibi to a police car, with bars and a metal cage.
“Bibi was asking me why we were in a police car and I had no answer," she said.
Dr Holman claims they were not allowed water, food or even to visit the bathroom for two hours.
“My daughter is a happy, smiley girl, but now she was terrified," she said.
"My little girl had to go to the toilet on the cell floor. I have never heard her cry in the same way as she did in that cell."
Dr Holman was taken to a building and told to provide a blood sample for an alcohol test.
The results showed 0.04% of alcohol in her blood, which is below the UK drink drive limit.
“I wanted as little stress as possible in front of Bibi," the mum-of-three said.
Next the pair were taken back in the police car to the airport detention facility.
Dr Holman describes it as being an unreal experience.
During the long, hot police van journey she begged the police officers to let her speak to her husband or a lawyer.
Dr Holman claims they laughed at her or talked Arabic but showed no compassion.
In the airport prison itself, Ellie could see other inmates and hear fights, although she and Bibi were in a cell on their own.
The guards took out Dr Holman’s earrings and tried to rip out her hair extensions, according to Detained in Dubai, the lawyers representing her.
It was midnight by now and they were completely drained and the pair badly needed a change of clothes.
The prison was baking hot and foul smelling, with no air conditioning, the lawyers claim.
They say Dr Holman and her daughter were not allowed to sleep in the cell.
Instead they were told to drag a filthy mattress to the big room where the prisoners eat.
The male guards offered no help moving the mattress, and they seemed to find it funny watching Ellie and Bibi struggling with it themselves.
The bright lights were left on all night, making it even more difficult to sleep.
“The food smelled like rotting garbage and neither Bibi or I could face trying it. I stayed awake for the whole three days days," says Dr Holman.
Meanwhile, her partner Gary became frantic with worry after he failed to hear from the pair after they landed.
When he found out they had been detained he left their other children Suri, nine, and Noah, eight, with relatives and flew to Dubai.
Three days later she was taken back to the airport and released on bail, but so far the situation has cost her £30,000 in legal fees, expenses and missed work.
Dr Holman said: "My passport remains confiscated until the case is settled, which I have been told will take at least a year.
"My practice is closed. All our savings have gone."
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