Singaporeans arrested in Abu Dhabi back home

(From left) Fashion photographer Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman (left), 26, Sharifa Alwiyah Mohsen Aljunied of the Singapore Embassy in Abu Dhabi and Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, 37. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN

SINGAPORE - The two Singaporeans arrested in Abu Dhabi for cross dressing have returned to Singapore.

Fashion photographer Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman, 26, and his friend Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, 37, were arrested in Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi on Aug 9.

The relieved pair arrived in Singapore on Tuesday morning (Aug 29) after almost three weeks in prison. They arrived here on an Etihad Airways flight and were welcomed by family and friends at Changi Airport.

On Aug 20, they were sentenced to a year's jail for dressing in women's clothes, but that sentence was reduced to a Dh10,000 (S$3, 689) fine and deportation for both.

Cross dressing is illegal in Abu Dhabi. Mr Fadli said he was arrested for wearing earrings. As for his clothes, "I was wearing my white button-up long-sleeved shirt, black jeans and Converse sneakers," he told The Straits Times.

He said that his friend, a transgender woman who is known as Ms Fifi to family and friends, was also in a long-sleeved shirt, jeans and sneakers.

Mr Fadli said it was amazing to be home and that he was thankful to Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his friends and family for helping.

"You know, every time when you go on holiday you don't want to come back? But now it is so good to be back and I feel so relieved," he said.

Ms Fifi's 34-year-old younger sister, who wanted to be known only as Madam Rozy, said she was happy and relieved to have her sibling home.

"Everything is finally over and Fifi is back safe and sound," said Madam Rozy. "No words can decribe my emotions right now, I feel like my prayers have been answered."

Mr Fadli was in Abu Dhabi for work but because of the arrest, had missed the photoshoot. Ms Fifi, who knows fashion designers in the United Arab Emirates capital, had accompanied him.

Posting about the safe return on Facebook, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan wrote: "Glad to know that our two fellow Singaporeans in Abu Dhabi, Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman and Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, are returning home today. I would like to express my appreciation to our colleagues at the Singapore Embassy in Abu Dhabi for their excellent work throughout the entire process.

"This is also a timely reminder for all Singaporeans to respect and abide by the local laws when travelling abroad."

Earlier, the pair's friends and family had started a fundraising campaign to help hire a lawyer in Abu Dhabi. The fundraising campaign hit its target of $25,000 in just a day. In all, $27,054.06 were raised from 160 donors.

Human rights activist Vanessa Ho, who is Mr Fadli's house mate and who helped with the fundraising, had sent the money over to the lawyer on Friday but cancelled the transfer on Monday after the pair's charges were reduced to a fine and deportation.

The lawyer had instead billed them $1,745 for three hours of work.

Ms Ho said the remaining amount will be refunded to donors.

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