Singaporeans arrested in Abu Dhabi

Campaign on Facebook raises $25k for legal fees

Singaporeans Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman (left), 26, and Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, 37, were arrested while in Abu Dhabi for dressing femininely and have been sentenced to a year's jail.
Singaporeans Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman (left), 26, and Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, 37, were arrested while in Abu Dhabi for dressing femininely and have been sentenced to a year's jail. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

Meanwhile, MFA reminds Singaporeans to respect and abide by local laws when overseas

A fundraising campaign to help two Singaporean men jailed in Abu Dhabi has hit its target of $25,000 in just a day.

Their worried friends and family members had set up a Facebook page appealing for donations to fund legal fees.

By 12pm yesterday, the page had raised $25,600 from about 150 donors.

Freelance fashion photographer Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman, 26, was in Abu Dhabi with his friend Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, 37, when the two were arrested for dressing in women's clothes and behaving indecently.

Nur is a transgender woman known to friends as Fifi, but Nur's identification documents state the gender as male because the Singaporean has not undergone sex reassignment surgery.

It is illegal to cross-dress in the United Arab Emirates.

 

The pair arrived in Abu Dhabi for work purposes on Aug 8, and were arrested the next day. On Sunday, they were each sentenced to a year's jail without a hearing and with no lawyers representing them.

APPRECIATION

We didn't expect the money to be raised this quickly. We are very grateful to everyone who donated.

MR MUHAMMAD SAIFUL BAHRI ABDUL RAHMAN, Fadli's brother.

Fadli's brother Muhammad Saiful Bahri Abdul Rahman, 32, who works in property management, said his family is overwhelmed by the support for the fundraising Facebook page, called "Free Fad and Fifi".

"We didn't expect the money to be raised this quickly. We are very grateful to everyone who donated," he told The Straits Times.

Human rights activist Vanessa Ho, who lives in the same apartment as Fadli, had opened a bank account to raise funds.

"Both families told us they couldn't afford the lawyer fees. We were searching for a lawyer who was within their budgets but couldn't find one," she said. The amount raised will be used to pay the legal fees for both Fadli and Fifi.

The lawyer will start work only when payment has been made, said Ms Ho. ST understands that the pair can both file an appeal 15 days after the judgment - on Sept 4.

Ms Ho had created a new bank account instead of using crowdfunding sites such as GiveAsia because those sites take between seven and 14 days to release funds but the families need the money immediately.

 

Fadli had called his father on Wednesday night, saying he was arrested by tourism police for wearing earrings, said Mr Saiful.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has said it is rendering consular assistance and helping the pair's families get legal advice. In an update yesterday afternoon, MFA said that the Singapore embassy in Abu Dhabi has been "closely monitoring developments to ensure that due process is accorded to them".

Officials from the embassy met both Singaporeans on Wednesday "to ensure their continued well-being while in custody".

The ministry said that embassy representatives also attended the bail hearing for the two on Thursday. Before the hearing, on the same day, the representatives met the two Singaporeans as well, the fourth time the embassy has met them since they were arrested.

The embassy first met them on Aug 10, the day it was informed of the pair's case.

"Singaporeans are also reminded that they should respect and abide by the local laws when they travel overseas," said MFA.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2017, with the headline 'Campaign on Facebook raises $25k for legal fees'. Print Edition | Subscribe