A 25-year old American woman accused of insulting the United Arab Emirates in public could be forced to stay in jail for another three weeks before a court reaches its verdict.
The unnamed woman said she was waiting for a taxi at the Abu Dhabi International Airport when two men approached and spoke to her in a manner she did not like, the government-owned newspaper The National reported.
It quoted her as saying that she "refused to engage with them and nothing happened." The report did not say if evidence was presented against her.
The woman has remained in custody on misdemeanor charges since Feb. 23. She reportedly asked to pay a fine to get out of jail, but the Federal Supreme Court determined it would not deliver a verdict until May 2.
The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi responded to an Associated Press query by stating that the embassy "is aware of the case and is providing consular services."
While liberal on some issues, the UAE has strict laws governing expression. Unlike in many Western countries, defamation is treated in the UAE as a criminal rather than a civil matter. Insulting the UAE's leaders, or the country itself, can carry a prison sentence and steep fines.
In 2013, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen from Minnesota was tried under a cyber-crimes law and accused of defaming the country's image abroad for posting a spoof video online about youth culture in the UAE. He spent nine months in prison before being deported and fined $2,700.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.