The mom who was detained in a “hot and foul-smelling” jail cell in Dubai after admitting to drinking a complimentary glass of wine on an Emirates Airlines flight has been released and reunited with her family at the behest of Sheikh Mohammed of the United Arab Emirates.
“I am shocked and excited to be returning home to England and that this nightmare is coming to an end,” Ellie Holman, a dentist and mom of three from Kent, England, said upon learning of her release, according to The Guardian.
Holman, 44, added that she “couldn’t believe it” and initially “wondered if it was a trap,” before coming to the realization that she would indeed be able to return home.
“They apologized on behalf of the immigration official and I was told that I was free on Sheikh Mohammed’s orders and welcome to return to Dubai. They helped me to arrange flights out of the country,” she said.
Holman was originally detained on July 13, along with her 4-year-old daughter Bibi, after landing in Dubai and being told by an official that she needed to return to the United Kingdom immediately because of an invalid visa. Holman filmed the encounter, claiming the official was “dismissive and rude.”
She was then asked if she had consumed alcohol on the flight, and she admitted she had. She was taken into custody shortly thereafter.
Holman, in a statement obtained by the human rights group Detained in Dubai — who also helped with her case — claimed she and her daughter were forced to sleep on a “filthy mattress,” clean toilets, eat food that “smelled like rotting garbage,” and use the bathroom on the cell floor before being bailed out three days later.
Dubai’s Attorney General’s Office has since disputed those statements, saying that she and her daughter "remained in airport security for less than 24 hours while services were provided to them, taking into full account and consideration of her 4-year-old daughter."
Holman’s daughter returned to the UK with Holman’s husband, who reportedly tried unsuccessfully to visit Holman while she was detained.
Holman claims the incident has cost her over 30,000 pounds in legal fees and missed wages, and resulted in the closure of her dental practice.
After news of Holman’s situation was reported, Dubai officials also disputed the reason Holman was taken into custody.
“We dispute Dr. Holman’s account of her treatment," an official told The Sun. “She was not turned away because she had a one-visit visa, as she claimed, because European citizens get a 30-day visa upon arrival. UAE law is strict on people recording others on their mobile phone without permission, which will not have helped Dr. Holman’s case. She became abusive toward airport staff, which is not tolerated.
“We cannot comment further as Dr. Holman’s case is still under review but there is more to her story than she has told."
Holman was reunited at the airport with her husband and her children, including her daughters Bibi, 4, and Suri, 9, as well as her son Noah, 8. They then returned home for a “private family reunion, The Sun reported.
Concerning Dubai's liquor laws, Radha Stirling, Detained in Dubai’s chief executive, said 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. It is illegal to consume alcohol at a bar, a hotel and a restaurant, and if breathalyzed, that person will be jailed."
However, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says that being intoxicated, and not neccessarily just having a small amount of alcohol in your system, is what's actually forbidden, according to News.com.au.
“It’s illegal to drink alcohol or be intoxicated in public,” the department states. “You can be arrested. Foreigners have been arrested on arrival after becoming intoxicated on incoming aircraft or while in transit.”
Kathleen Joyce contributed to this report.