“Tierra is the latest American tourist to get caught up in what is a common rental car extortion scheme”, explained Stirling. “Rental car agencies are notorious for opening criminal cases against visitors with the promise to drop the case if they are paid off. The prevalence of blackmail is damaging to the UAE’s tourism and investment sectors and Dubai’s government needs to crack down on this abuse of process.
“When it comes to judicial abuse, the US state department has been highly effective at resolving these issues and securing the safety of their citizens. However, this is often only after pressure from congressional and senatorial representatives who encourage them to be more proactive. Without this, citizens can expect to be provided with nothing more than a list of local lawyers and good luck wishes.
“This is why Tierra’s mother, Tina Baxton, has reached out to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who is now looking into the matter. We have contacted Senator Cruz directly, who we have asked to work with the state department and the family to bring Tierra home. What we’ve seen over the past 15 years as an organisation, is that when representatives support their citizens, they are more likely to safely return home.
“If convicted of shouting, Tierra faces high legal fees, a potentially lengthy prison sentence, fine and deportation. If a civil claim is made against her, she would not be permitted to leave the UAE unless the judgement was paid”.
“Tierra and her family have been going through hell, and they have no idea what the outcome will be and when they might be reunited. Just recently, two Americans agreed to pay an extortion fee to a rental car agency, just to recover their passports and go home. If they didn’t pay, they would still be there, possibly in prison.
“UAE prisons have a dark history of human rights violations, beatings and even a death in custody. This is what tourists have to consider when booking their flights. It’s not a case of ‘staying out of trouble’ or ‘obeying the laws’, it’s a case of hoping for the best. There is very little that visitors can do to protect themselves against these situations. Dubai’s Tourism Board should do more to discourage these kinds of criminal cases against foreigners and the US State Department and news media should do more to warn people of the very real dangers they expose themselves to when visiting the Emirates.”
CEO at Detained in Dubai