American man Ryan Pate was arrested in Abu Dhabi after he took to Facebook complaining about his work conditions during a job in the United Arab Emirates.
Pate, a helicopter mechanic from Belleair Bluffs, Florida, complained about a dispute over sick leave with the UAE company. While he was in the U.S., Pate was attempting to get treatment for a back injury. After a disagreeable phone call with his employer about extended sick leave, Pate took to the social media platform. Although he wrote the Facebook post in Florida, he was arrested upon his return to Abu Dhabi last month, where slandering one’s employer is against the law.
Pate spent 10 days in jail, where officers showed him screenshots of his post, and is now free on bail. He could potentially spend up to five years in prison and pay a steep fine if convicted.
“I just couldn't register it in my head because as an American growing up in the United States, the First Amendment right is just ingrained in my brain,” Pate said. “I never even entertained the fact that I would wind up in prison out here for something I put on Facebook in the United States.”
Pate claims he can’t remember exactly what he wrote, but that he did call his bosses “backstabbers” and warned other contractors not to work for them.
Pate’s congressman Rep. David Jolly has attempted to intervene, lobbying the State Department and Emirates officials for help. In a letter to the Emirati attorney general, Jolly noted that the posts occurred on American soil and that, while acknowledging the sovereignty of the UAE, its laws shouldn’t apply to Pate’s case.
Pate said he’s trying not to think about the sentencing and that he’s remorseful of letting his emotions get the best of him.