'They spat at me and pulled my hair': Mother detained in Dubai for drinking a glass of wine feared she would be raped in prison

By Greg Murphy

A mother, who was detained in Dubai for three days with her four-year-old daughter after a drinking a complimentary glass of wine on a flight from London has spoken about her experience for the first time.

Swedish dentist Ellie Holman, who lives in Sevenoaks, Kent in the UK, claimed that she was spat at, had her hair pulled and feared she would be raped while in prison.

In an interview with the Daily Mail Ms Holman described her treatment as 'inhuman'.

She said: "It is like an out-of-body experience. I still can't believe that I spent three days in jail. I have never been in trouble in my life and yet here I was sharing a cell block with 30 other women."

The 44-year-old was arrested on July 13 after having one glass of wine on her eight-hour Emirates Airline flight to Dubai from London.

She was eventually released on Sunday.

Ms Holman was born in Iran and raised in Sweden but has lived in the UK for almost 20 years.

Speaking about her experience she told the Daily Mail that she had visited Dubai a number of times and had never encountered this kind of treatment.

She said: "I enjoy a glass of wine with my meal and accepted it from the cabin crew. That was the only alcohol I had on the flight. I've flown to Dubai a dozen times and had a drink on the flight."

When she arrived in Dubai and handed over her Iranian passport at the immigration desk, Ms Holman was told by officers that her visa had already been used two months previous, which she said was her mistake.

Ms Holman was advised by officers to get a transit visa which would allow her to stay in the UAE before being told to get a ticket to fly home.

She said: "I did not swear and told him I was told I could get a transit visa. He just refused to listen and he was so close I could feel his spit on my face. He was jabbing a finger in my face and was rude and aggressive.

He looked at me as if I was like the dirt under his shoes, and I think it was because I was from Iran. If it had been a European woman he might not have reacted in the same way.

Ms Holman went on to describe what happened next after she was asked whether or not she had alcohol in her system.

"I was being honest and told him about the glass of wine. That was it. He just said you are drunk. I told him I'd had one glass, but he would not listen."

She continued: "I never swear in front of my children. I had my four-year-old daughter with me and I would never use bad language in front of her.

"People in Britain film police all the time. I was doing it for my own protection."

She describes being surrounded by more than a dozen immigration officers before carrying her off to a cell followed by her "weeping daughter".

Bibi Holman had to go to the toilet on the cell floor, her mother said (Detained in Dubai/PA)

"My feet were off the ground...Someone spat at me and they were pulling at my hair. I was terrified and crying. Bibi was behind me and she was crying.

"It was awful and all I could think of was why I did not take up the offer to buy a ticket and go home. I kept on thinking, "what have I done?". All I could think off was poor Bibi and how confused and frightened she must be."

Describing her experience in prison, Ms Holman said her survival instincts kicked in and she knew she would have to be strong for the sake of her daughter.

A pregnant woman told me how she had been raped while being held in the prison. I feared it could happen to me, but thankfully with Bibi with me all the time nothing occurred.

She was eventually released from prison and remained under house arrest at the home of a friend and eventually was allowed to return home.

The Dubai government issued a statement in which they said she was using an out-of-date passport, swore at officials and filmed them on her mobile phone.

She said that the experience has forced her to take anti-anxiety medication and is unlikely to ever return to Dubai because of it.

"I used to love going to Dubai where I have many friends, but I will never go back.

"If I had known I could be arrested for having a single drink on the plane then I would never have touched a drop."

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