Florida man jailed in UAE for defaming employer on Facebook says charges may be dropped

Associated Press

An American helicopter mechanic whose Facebook post complaining about his employer in the United Arab Emirates got him arrested said Tuesday he has been told the company is seeking to dismiss the charges against him.

Ryan Pate, 30, appeared in an Abu Dhabi court Tuesday to present his defense on charges he defamed his Emirati employer, Global Aerospace Logistics.

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The Belleair Bluffs, Florida native posted about the company during a visit stateside following a dispute with his employer over sick leave. When he returned to Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich Emirati capital, he was told to report to a police station and was arrested for breaking local defamation laws.

Pate's Facebook post has since been deleted. He says he can't remember exactly what he wrote, but he knows he called his bosses "backstabbers" and warned others not to work for them.

In an interview after his hearing, Pate said his lawyer informed him that GAL has submitted paperwork seeking to dismiss the charges. He was cautiously optimistic that step will end his legal ordeal, though he was still waiting for final confirmation from the court.

"I'm so grateful to the company for doing that. That was a huge thing for them to do," said Pate, adding that he regrets letting his emotions get the best of him.

Pate says he spent about 10 days in jail before being released pending a verdict in the case. Authorities are holding his passport, a customary step for defendants in the Emirates, meaning he cannot leave the Gulf nation.

Pate's congressman, Rep. David Jolly, has lobbied the U.S. State Department and Emirates officials for help.

Jolly welcomed the news in a statement thanking those who helped Pate, including U.S. Ambassador Barbara Leaf, and saying he believed his constituent's comments were protected by the U.S. Constitution's first amendment because they were made on American soil.

"I now look forward to Ryan being reunited with his family and friends back home in Florida," he said.

GAL did not immediately return a call seeking comment.


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