'A Chilling Effect': Fla. Man Jailed in UAE for Facebook Posts Made on U.S. Soil
A Florida congressman is fighting to free an American jailed in the United Arab Emirates for Facebook posts he wrote on U.S. soil.
While home in Florida, Ryan Pate made some tough comments on Facebook about his United Arab Emirates-based employer following a dispute over sick leave. When he returned to the United Arab Emirates, Pate was thrown in jail for slandering his employer.
Pate has spent 10 days in jail and could face another five years behind bars for slander.
Florida Rep. David Jolly is vowing to bring Pate home. He said he has asked Secretary of State John Kerry to intervene, and Jolly has contacted the attorney general in the United Arab Emirates in an attempt to get clemency for Pate. Jolly said he will continue to work on this every day until Pate’s next trial date on March 17.
Jolly acknowledged that Pate’s comments were disrespectful, but said Pate has owned up to that. Still, they were not threatening, he stressed.
The Florida congressman remarked that this case has a chilling effect on protected speech since Pate’s comments were posted on U.S. soil.
“This is a terrifying prospect that a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil can engage in constitutionally protected activity – speech – and then fly overseas and be detained,” Jolly said. “Imagine if the United States were to detain an Emirati for lawful behavior in their own country, but we decided to detain them here. It’s wrong, and it does have a chilling effect, and it’s scary.”
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