Adelaide man charged in Dubai for sharing charity post on Facebook

Adelaide 24india news

An Adelaide man arrested over a Facebook post in Dubai has now been charged and reportedly faces up to a year in prison.

Key points:

  • Scott Richards was charged overnight and went before a judge
  • He was charged with fundraising without permission after sharing a post about a charity
  • He was arrested in July under new laws in the UAE

Scott Richards was arrested three weeks ago and held without charge until global media attention on his case.

Mr Richards’ family said he was officially charged overnight and went before a judge.

He has been charged with fundraising without permission for sharing a Facebook post about a charity that raised money for tarpaulins for people in the cold of Afghanistan.

If found guilty Mr Richards reportedly faces a $30,000AU fine and up to a year in prison.

Scott Richards was not released on bail and advocates expect he will be kept in prison for at least another fortnight before his case is reviewed again.

His mother Penelope Haberfeld went public with her son’s plight this week and called on authorities in the United Arab Emirates to release her son.

She said she hopes Scott will soon be released on bail.

“I haven’t managed to speak to him again,” she said.

“I don’t think [authorities] are going to let it go.”

The ABC understands Mr Richards has also received support from the Afghan government who wrote a letter of support for Mr Richards.

Ms Haberfeld said she now intends to approach Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Scott Richards was arrested in July under new laws in the United Arab Emirate preventing people promoting overseas charities.

The father-of-two is based in Dubai where he works as an economic development consultant.

Mr Richards was a volunteer with US-based Zwan Family Charity which distributed tarpaulins to people struggling in the cold in refugee camps of Afghanistan.

He shared a Facebook post that asked for people to support the charity.

Under a new decree made in the UAE in 2015 anyone wishing to fundraise in the country needs to get prior approval from the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department. Ms Haberfield said her son was a volunteer and was not fundraising.

“It’s the indefinite detention it can go on for months, years,” she said.

“As his mother I’m not prepared to give up.”

Mr Richards is being held in Al Murraqabat Police Station and has only been able to make limited phone calls.

He is only able to change clothes every seven days and has to pay for water.

“He himself is holding up well,” Ms Haberfield said.

“It’s not nice. They only get ten minutes of sunshine once a week.”

Ms Haberfield said her son was being punished for having a social conscience.

“He’s used to trying to act in a humanitarian way,” she said.

Expats ‘constantly’ falling foul of unique UAE laws

Radha Stirling from the group Detained in Dubai says the UAE has many unique laws and arbitrary detentions are common.

“There are constantly expats falling foul of the law and also being victims of other people because it’s so easy in the UAE for an individual to take out a police complaint against someone.”

“In a case like this where it’s so obviously unjust we are hoping for diplomatic intervention which the Australian government has done in the past.”

The charity Zwan Family Charity said Mr Richards has never worked for them and is only a friend of a supporter based in Kabul, Afghanistan.

A spokeswoman for the charity said it would be remaining neutral.

“Zwan Family Charity has been blessed with supporters and donors all over the world and we urge each of them to please learn the charity laws of your government before you publicly support us.”

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was aware of the detention of an Australian-UK dual national in the United Arab Emirates.

“As the man is resident in the UAE on his UK passport, he is receiving consular assistance from the UK Embassy,” he said.

“The Australian Consulate-General is in contact with the UK Embassy to monitor developments in the case.”

The UAE Embassy did not respond to the ABC’s inquiries. The British government has been approached for comment.

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