Dubai police ‘urged woman to drop’ Facebook ‘horse’ complaint against UK mother

Dubai police urged a woman who complained that a British mother called her a “horse” on Facebook to drop the case, it has been claimed.

Laleh Shahravesh, 55, from Richmond, south-west London, will appear in court on Thursday over allegations that she levelled insults at her ex-husband’s new wife on social media.

She was arrested after touching down in Dubai on March 10 with her daughter Paris, 14, who has since begged its ruler to let her mother home.

Police later tried to convince complainant Samah Al Hammadi, 42, from Tunisia, to halt the claim but she “stubbornly refused”, campaign group Detained In Dubai said.

The group’s chief executive, Radha Stirling, made the claim following reports that Ms Hammadi wrote a Facebook post suggesting she might drop the case.

Lawyers for mother-of-one Ms Shahravesh, who faces two years in jail and a £50,000 fine, met the presiding judge on Tuesday ahead of her scheduled court appearance.

Ms Stirling said: “We understand that Dubai police made several attempts to persuade Ms Hammadi to drop her complaint at the time of the arrest, but she stubbornly refused, going so far as to push her complaint in person at the police station with further testimony and evidence.”

No formal steps have been taken to drop the case, she added.

Ms Shahravesh and her daughter had travelled to Dubai for the funeral of her ex-husband Pedro, who had died of a heart attack a week earlier.

She was married to Pedro for 18 years and they lived together in Dubai, where he worked for HSBC, for eight months before she returned to Britain with their daughter.

A few months later, in 2016, she unexpectedly received divorce papers and saw from photos on Facebook that Pedro, who was Portuguese, had remarried.

In one post, written in Farsi, she said: “I hope you go under the ground you idiot. Damn you. You left me for this horse.”

Another comment said: “You married a horse you idiot.”

Both posts were written in Britain, Detained In Dubai said.

Ms Shahravesh’s passport was seized but her daughter has been allowed to return home.

Ms Stirling added: “The cybercrime laws are so vague that even the police are powerless to interpret them responsibly and they had no choice but to proceed with the Tunisian’s case against Laleh even though they themselves apparently deemed the complaint frivolous.

“The public prosecutor should have rejected the case if for no other reason than to clarify that the cybercrime laws should deal with matters of genuine public endangerment – hate speech, incitement to violence, and so on – and are not to be applied in petty matters of personal disputes and injured egos.”

She said it was a case “not only of freedom of speech, but of jurisdictional limits”.