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Abu Dhabi transgender pair released after successful campaign by British NGO

Two Singaporeans who expected to spend the next year in an Abu Dhabi prison are home today, following a campaign led by British NGO Detained in Dubai. On August 9th the two, a man and his transgender friend,were arrested in an Abu Dhabi shopping Mall for, according to court documents, “wearing women's clothes in public and for behaving indecently". After two weeks of detention and lack of access to legal help or the media, photographer Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman, 26, and Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, 37 appeared in court and were handed a one year's prison sentence each. On August 27th after massive international pressure from human rights organisations, friends and activists in the gay and transgender community, the pair had their sentences commuted to Dh10,000 fine and deportation from Abu Dhabi. Twitter and other social media campaigns had a massive influence here and are being used to highlight and influence cases on an unprecedented scale in 2017. Detained in Dubai, one of the NGO’s involved in bringing attention to this case has a well established history of positive outcomes in media and social media campaigns. Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai says, “our organisation’s involvement has helped to get the sentences reduced” she continues that “This case is not a stand-alone and the global LGBT community will be watching the outcomes closely.” Last year, Detained in Dubai, used both traditional media and social media campaigning, to secure a small fine to a British man accused of cross-dressing in Dubai, sparing him any detention. He was fined 5,000 dirhams and also deported. Stirling continues, “we have succeeded in a number of cases in the past through our broad spectrum campaigns, not only do we fight on behalf of individuals and causes, but also to affect laws and abuse of international law in The Emirates. For instance, we have raised the issue of UAE banks using Interpol Red Notices as debt collection notices - these have been impacting negatively on a growing number of people, who come to us for help”. “We use social media to highlight corruption within the UAE court system. By spotlighting these irregularities and injustices, attention and pressure can be sought from the international community to bring the UAE legal system into the 21st Century”. Campaigns by Detained in Dubai include Scott Richards, an Australian & British National was arrested, detained and charged under the UAE´s relatively new Cybercrime Laws for supporting a charity on social media that was not registered in the UAE. Richards' case attracted the attention of the international media due to the absurd nature of the charges and the fact that half of Facebook users were potentially also in breach of these peculiar laws. A successful media campaign was a core tool in the case of the three British plane spotters who had been held in prison in the United Arab Emirates for eight weeks on accusations of espionage. The case resulted in all three being released without charge. The successful and high profile campaign to free Australian Matt Joyce from a Dubai jail was heavily reliant upon maintaining a huge social media presence spanning several years. The success of these cases, among many others, shows that social media campaigns do work and have a massive influence on seemingly closed cases, they demonstrate international public opinion, when channeled through social media, can advance the modernisation and accountability of courts and legal systems around the world. With each new person watching and getting involved, corruption stands less chance of success everywhere.

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