dubai – A Houston woman known online as the “cheeky truck driver” has been stranded in Dubai for months after getting into an altercation with a car rental company. The latest incident shows the limits of speech in this skyscraper-lined city-state.
The lawsuit against Tierra Young Allen, 29, comes at a time when the seven UAE emirates have strict rules governing speech that go far beyond the norm in the West. Raising the middle finger in a traffic dispute, bad-mouthing someone in a text message, or bad-mouthing someone in public can easily result in criminal charges. The foreign tourists who flock here may not notice until it’s too late.
Allen traveled to Dubai in April and her social media accounts, which have tens of thousands of followers, posted videos of her testing Mercedes semi-trucks, hitting the beach, seeing the sights and partying at nightclubs.
But towards the end of Allen’s trip, on April 28, a rental car driven by a friend she was with was involved in an accident, said Radha Sterling, who runs the Dubai detention group, a long-time UAE critic. Sterling said an altercation erupted after Allen tried to retrieve personal items left in the car from the rental agency after the accident.
The circumstances of the altercation at the unidentified car rental company remain unclear. Mr. Sterling said Mr. Allen could be charged with “yelling” at a car rental agency employee, but did not elaborate on what Mr. Allen specifically said at the time. Sterling accused a car rental company employee of “raising her voice at her and kicking her out of the store” during her incident.
Allen was “frightened and intimidated by his aggression,” Sterling said.
Allen did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press, but Sterling said speaking publicly “risks additional charges from the UAE government.”
In a statement, Dubai police disputed Sterling’s account of the altercation.
“Dubai Police have received a complaint from a car rental company for defaming an employee during a dispute over car rental rates,” the police said in a statement. “The individual was questioned pursuant to legal process and then released pending resolution of ongoing legal proceedings between her and the car rental company.”
Police usually impose travel bans on those involved in such cases until a resolution is obtained. The police will receive statements from both sides and decide whether to forward them to the prosecution. Cases are resolved when the complainant withdraws the case and both parties agree to a settlement or go to court. Sterling said police had Allen’s passport in custody.
In response to a question from the Associated Press, the US State Department confirmed that it “is aware that Tierra Young Allen, a US citizen, cannot leave Dubai.” However, it did not elaborate on the circumstances of Allen’s case.
“We take seriously our commitment to assisting Americans abroad and are providing all appropriate assistance,” the State Department said. “The Department remains in regular contact with her and her family. We will continue to monitor her case closely.”
Separately, the State Department warns travelers coming to the UAE that “individuals who use disrespectful gestures, speak ill of others, or make derogatory remarks about the UAE, the royal family, municipalities or others may be subject to arrest, fines and deportation.”
Under Emirates law, publicly insulting another person can result in up to one year in prison and a $5,450 fine. Disputes over rental car agency fees have left foreign tourists stranded in city-states in the past.
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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2023/07/25/legal-dispute-facing-texan-sassy-trucker-in-dubai-shows-the-limits-of-speech-in-uae/ Legal dispute facing Texan ‘cheeky truck driver’ in Dubai shows limits of speech in UAE