A COURT in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has sentenced two Singaporean men to a year’s jail for “wearing women’s clothes”.
Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman, 26, and Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, 37, were arrested for committing the offence at a shopping mall in the country’s capital Abu Dhabi on Aug 9, reported the Singaporean Straits Times newspaper.
The report said freelance fashion photographer Muhammad Fadli arrived in the country for work the day before the arrest. Nur Qistina Fitriah, also known among family and friends as Fifi, was accompanying Muhammad Fadli on the trip.
The court’s official document said the duo were caught with “wearing women’s clothes” in public and were cited for indecent behaviour.
UAE’s conservative Islamic laws prohibit homosexuality, transgenderism, and cross-dressing.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Muhammad Fadli’s family the government was looking at ways to help the two men.
“I’m sorry to hear about this. Rest assured our consular and mission colleagues will do their best to assist your brother,” the minister said in an e-mail to Muhammad Fadli’s brother, Muhammad Saiful Bahri.
“I understand they are already in contact with you and your brother. Please let me know if you need further assistance.”
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Muhammad Saiful said his brother had sent a photo of himself wearing “a normal white shirt” just before he was arrested.
The brother said his family learned of the arrest from the Foreign Ministry last week and were later told about the sentencing on Monday.
He said the two were not represented by a lawyer.
“My brother was not present in court, and nobody from the Singapore embassy was there either, so he could not have defended himself.”
The two could file an appeal within 15 days after the judgment, The Straits Times reported.
Vanessa Ho, a Singaporean activist who shares an apartment with Muhammad Fadli, said she was looking to get a lawyer for the two men.
“We found the American embassy has a very good handbook about detention in Abu Dhabi. It says citizens have a right to make a phone call home, but Fadli has not contacted anyone.”