An American mother faces up to five years in an Emirati prison after allegedly insulting her employer in a text message during a dispute over unpaid wages.
Nichole Coffel, from Kansas City, Missouri, was arrested and charged in Abu Dhabi after her boss and renowned jockey, Anoud Sultan Al Suwaidi, claimed the mother had sent her an offensive WhatsApp message.
Coffel, 45, who served as COO of the Al Suwaidi equestrian club, claimed that she was stiff from three months of wages and also sought compensation for an injury she sustained after being bitten by one of the horses.
Trying to convince Al Suwaidi, she said she was referring to the failure to pay her as & # 39; haram & # 39 ;, an Arabic word that & # 39; forbidden & # 39; means.
But Al Suwadi later complained to the police that Coffel had the word & # 39; harami & # 39; had written, a very offensive word that translates to & # 39; thief & # 39; or & # 39; asshole & # 39 ;.
Detained: American mother Nichole Coffel (photo) was arrested and charged under UAE cyber crime laws after sending an insulting message to her boss and renowned jockey Anoud Sultan Al Suwaidi
The 45-year-old, who moved to the country three years ago, worked as the COO of the Al Suwaidi equestrian club and claimed she was paid for three months. She is pictured on the far left with Al Suwaidi (center)
Coffel, 45, was later arrested and charged under the UAE cyber crime laws, which insult others by electronic means as a serious crime.
The three-year-old mother was detained for four hours at a police station in Abu Dhabi, where she was interrogated by non-translator police officers.
She was finally released when the American embassy came to the rescue.
But Coffel has been told that she cannot leave the country until the indictment has been withdrawn or she appears in court.
& # 39; They wouldn't even give me a translator when they interviewed me until the embassy took care of them remotely & # 39 ;, she said.
& # 39; But they didn't pay attention to what I had to say. The only thing I did was to ask for my salary and to help cover the costs of medical bills after Anoud's horse bit me.
& # 39; I have now been told that I could receive five years in prison. It's so scary. & # 39;
The Coffel case has since been taken over by Detained in Dubai, a campaign group that helps foreigners indicted in the UAE.
CEO Radha Stirling told DailyMail.com Coffel & # 39; s message was & # 39; calculated & # 39; misinterpreted to deviate from the fact that she owes money.
Al Suwaidi is a famous figure in Abu Dhabi and one of their most famous female jockeys
When contacted by DailyMail.com, she said that she had agreed to drop the charge and that the planned court hearing would not take place next week – the charge is still online
& # 39; Nichole has not threatened or insulted Mrs. Al Suwadi, she has just asked to be paid for her work and for her injuries, & # 39; she said.
& # 39; Nichole & # 39; s request for payment was estimated wrong to fit into the UAE's opaque definition of a cybercrime violation and to divert Ms. Al Suwadi's responsibility to pay Nichole's wages. & # 39;
Coffel, who moved to the country three years ago, said she had sent the message because after an operation she had sustained three major operations for a deep wound in her shoulder.
Although she was COO at the equestrian center of Al Suwaidi, Coffel helped with the stables when the incident occurred.
& # 39; In any dispute, it is natural to assume that there are valid complaints on both sides; but this case involved three specific things: Nichole was not paid, Nichole was wounded and Nichole was wrongly charged with a crime for asking her employer for lawful compensation, & Stirling added.
& # 39; We have been in contact with the complainant and she does not seem to really want to see Nichole prosecute; but must still formally withdraw the costs.
& # 39; Anoud promised Nichole many times to pay her wages, but never continued. We hope that this will not be the case with her assurances about her intention to withdraw the charge. & # 39;
Al Suwaidi is a famous figure in Abu Dhabi and one of their most famous female jockeys.
Coffel, pictured with her family, was also looking for compensation for an injury she sustained when she was bitten by one of the horses of Al Suwaidi
Coffel, who moved to Kansas City, Missouri three years ago, plans to leave immediately as soon as her passport is returned
When contacted by DailyMail.com, she said that she had agreed to drop the charge and that the planned court hearing of next week would not take place.
However, the charge against Coffel was still mentioned for a hearing on the website of the Abu Dhabi court.
Al Suwaidi said: “She entered my stable and brought out an untamed horse, and tried to train him knowing that upon entering the stable, the signs and safety briefings state that only the trainers and grooms are responsible for my horses and my riding school cannot be held liable for any injury. She was bitten and fought for compensation.
& # 39; I treated her like a friend in need, I am still willing to forgive her to set an example for all the sponsored children I care for. & # 39;
Coffel said she plans to leave immediately once her passport has been returned.
Her 18-year-old son Nick said the situation has taken its toll on the mother.
& # 39; She's usually so positive, but this just hit her & # 39 ;, he said.
& # 39; It's strange that she could be put in jail for five years for a message that only one person saw. It's not like she's bad in the mouth.
& # 39; Mother just wants to come home. & # 39;
The controversial laws in the UAE came to the fore earlier this year when a British mother faced the prison sentence via a Facebook message where she told her ex-husband's wife a & # 39; horse & # 39; called.
Laleh Shahravesh, 55, was arrested when she arrived in Dubai to pay her respects to her husband who had recently died.
The offensive Facebook post was made while living in the UK and posted two years prior to her arrest.
A judge fined Shahravesh $ 731 (£ 600) and she was allowed to leave the country.
THE STRICT CYBERCRIME LAWS OF THE UAE
President Sheikh Khalifa (photo) created new cyber crime laws that allowed offenders up to 25 years in prison
In the cyber crime laws of the United Arab Emirates, offenders can get up to 25 years in prison for the most serious offenses.
Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan – the president of the UAE – issued Emiri Decree No. 02 of 2018 in August, which amended the law of the country. According to the regulations:
- Anyone who sets up, manages, manages or publishes information on a network in the interest of a terrorist group or an unauthorized organization or body with the intention of communicating with the faces of their leaders between 10 and 25 years of imprisonment and a fine between 2 million and 4 million dirhams ($ 544,000 to $ 1 million)
- Those who incite hatred are detained for up to five years and a fine of at least 500,000 dirhams ($ 136,000). First offenders can be placed under electronic probation and monitoring
- Temporary imprisonment and a fine of up to 1 million dirhams ($ 270,000) will be imposed on those who manage or manage websites or use information on a computer network for inciting information, publishing or broadcasting information, news or cartoons or other images that could endanger the security of the state and its highest interests, threaten public order or attack judicial inspectors or one of those charged with the implementation of the legal provisions & # 39;
- Foreigners convicted of all crimes specified in Federal Decree Law No. 05 are expelled after conviction
The previously established UAE Cybercrime Law No. 5 of 2012 regulates online privacy legislation. The regulations state that:
- Those caught with access to a website, network or system without authorization receive imprisonment and fines between 50,000 and 1 million dirham ($ 13,600 and $ 270,000) if personal information is deleted or stolen
- Those who use technology to violate privacy by eavesdropping, copying photos or publishing news will receive six months in jail and fines between 150,000 and 300,000 dirhams ($ 40,800 to $ 81,000)
- Those who use malicious software that causes a network or IT system to stop functioning or that result in & # 39; crash, delete, omit, destroy, and modify the program & # 39; face five years in prison and a fine of 3 million dirham ($ 816,000)
- Other offenses include offensive religions and their rituals, defamation of government officials, the sending or republishing of pornography, the falsification of official documents, the reproduction of credit or debit card details and the acquisition of secret passwords or pin codes
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