Woman and daughter were held in Dubai after mom had complimentary wine on plane

Tanya Edwards
Ellie Holman and daughter. (Photo: Facebook)

A woman was detained in Dubai for three days with her 4-year-old daughter after drinking a complimentary glass of wine on a flight from London, according to the human rights group Detained in Dubai.

The Guardian reports that Ellie Holman, a 44-year-old dentist originally from Sweden who lives in England with her partner, Gary, and their children, was denied water and made to clean toilets while in custody.

She was arrested on July 13 after an immigration official questioned her about her visa and asked if she had consumed alcohol.

“After landing, she was questioned by an immigration official, who said her visa was invalid and she must return to London immediately, the group said.

She said the official was “dismissive and rude” when she asked if she could buy another visa, and was then questioned about her alcohol, which she admitted to consuming

Holman claims she and her daughter Bibi were initially denied food, water, and access to a toilet while being held in a cell together for three days.

Holman claimed the guards tried to rip out her hair extensions and described the prison as hot and “foul-smelling,” according to the Guardian. She said the pair were made to sleep on a “filthy” mattress and she was told to clean toilets and floors.

“My little girl had to go to the toilet on the cell floor. I have never heard her cry in the same way as she did in that cell,” she said.

When her partner, Gary, found out they had been detained, he left their other children Suri, 9, and Noah, 8, with family and quickly flew from England to Dubai, News.com.au reports.

Three days later the dentist was taken back to the airport and released on bail, but so far the situation has cost her tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, expenses, and missed work. She was also told she must stay in Dubai until the case was resolved.

However, perhaps due to heavy coverage of this story in the U.K. press, Holman was told in a telephone call Saturday that she can leave Dubai at any time and will not face any charges. The Dubai government also apologized and said it will pay for the flights home, the Daily Mail reports. The city-state is a popular tourist destination, but public consumption of alcohol is mostly illegal in Dubai, which has strict rules.

Tourists are permitted to drink in licensed restaurants, hotels and bars attached to licensed hotels. However, is unacceptable and punishable to drink in public places. Dubai is incredibly strict about public drunkenness. Being drunk in public can lead to sentences of six months in jail and hefty fines.

Holman was with her two older children, who had flown out to Dubai for a visit, when she received the news and said she was “ecstatic.”

She told the Daily Mail, “I can’t believe this is over. When I got the call from the government telling me they were dropping the case I was in shock.”

“I was told to prepare for a long stay in Dubai and a prison sentence. The man on the phone apologized on behalf of the immigration official who put me and Bibi through all of this.”

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