Ellie Holman is a 44-year-old mother of three who was arrested by immigration officials at Dubai International Airport for drinking a glass of wine on her flight.
Holman told the Daily Mail in an exclusive interview that she was arrested by an official after he asked if she had consumed any alcohol on the flight. When she replied that she had, she was told that it was illegal to consume alcohol in the UAE.
Holman was detained with her daughter for three days ina cell. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Holman Was First Told by an Immigration Official That Her Visa Was ‘Invalid’
Upon landing in Dubai International Airport, Holman was reportedly told by an immigration official that her visa was not valid. Holman explained that she’d visited the UAE multiple times, and since her visa hadn’t expired she didn’t understand what would be invalid about it.
The official then told her that her visa was only valid for a single visit, and that she’d have to return to London. When Holman began to argue with the official, he reportedly asked her if she’d had anything to drink. “I told him I had a glass of wine on the flight,” Holman said. “It was given to me free by Emirates Airlines staff.”
At that point, Holman tried to videotape the encounter and was swarmed by officials.
2. Holman & Her Daughter Were Kept in a ‘Hot’ Cell That ‘Smelled Disgusting’ For Three Days
Holman and her daughter, Bibi, were reportedly held in a cell for three days. They didn’t eat for three days.
Holman said of the ordeal, “My daughter is a happy, smiley girl, but she was terrified…The food smelled like rotting garbage and neither Bibi or I could face trying it. I stayed awake for the whole three days.”
In addition to being denied pillows, Holman claims that he was required to mop around the toilets while her daughter watched. When she took a BAC test, her reports showed a .04% alcohol percentage, which was far below the legal limit to drive in the UK.
3. Holman Was Eventually Bailed Out of Jail by Her Husband, Gary & They Estimate They’ve Spent Over 30,000 Pounds In Legal Fees
Holman’s husband, Gary, eventually flew to the UAE to bail his wife and daughter out of jail. However, Holman has to stay in Dubai for now, as her passport was confiscated and the legal case could take up a year to settle.
Holman, who is a dentist, said of her experience, “My passport remains confiscated until the case is settled, which I have been told will take at least a year. So far this situation has cost me around £30,000 in legal fees, expenses and missed work. My practice is closed. All our savings have gone.”
Gary Holman and their three children are currently in the UK, while Holman sorts out the legal matter in Dubai.
4. Holman’s Lawyer Is Arguing That the UAE’s Drinking Policy is ‘Deliberately Misleading’
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained In Dubai, the British human rights NGO who is representing Holman, said in a statement via Daily Mail:
“The UAE maintains a deliberately misleading façade that alcohol consumption is perfectly legal for visitors.This is exampled by bars at the airport, by hotels, restaurants and clubs serving drinks. Tourists cannot be blamed for believing that the Emirates are tolerant of Western drinking habits but this is far from reality. It is wholly illegal for any tourist to have any level of alcohol in their blood. It is illegal to consume alcohol at a bar, a hotel and a restaurant and if breathalysed, that person will be jailed.”
5. Gary Holman Has Described the Experience as ‘Heartbreaking’
Gary Holman said to Daily Mail, “The thought of Ellie and our little girl in that awful prison breaks my heart. Ellie is a sensible, professional person and excellent mother who would never knowingly break the law.”
Holman continued, “Why do Emirates Airlines serve alcohol for a passenger to drink and then pass through the airport? This has been devastating for the whole family. Ellie was taking a much needed break with little Bibi, who was looking forward to the beach and playing in the sea.”
‘I hope this can all be over so we can all be together again and start to heal.’