Australian sues gov't after being jailed in UAE

AP News
Posted: Jun 07, 2011 2:44 AM
Australian sues gov't after being jailed in UAE

An Australian woman who was jailed in the United Arab Emirates after reporting she had been raped filed a lawsuit against the Australian government on Tuesday, alleging consular officials failed to warn her such a complaint could land her in jail.

The 29-year-old woman spent eight months in a United Arab Emirates jail for having sex with someone she wasn't married to and drinking without a permit after she told officials she was drugged and raped by several fellow employees of a hotel in the emirate of Fujairah in 2008. She was released in March 2009.

The woman said she contacted the Australian embassy in Dubai for help after the assault. But she said consular officials never warned her that she could be charged with breaking the law if she reported being raped by someone who was not her spouse. It is illegal to have a sexual relationship outside of marriage in the United Arab Emirates.

The Associated Press does not generally identify people who say they were sexually assaulted, unless they give their permission. The woman declined through her attorneys to be interviewed.

On Tuesday, she filed a lawsuit in Brisbane Supreme Court against the Australian government, arguing consular officials failed to warn her of the legal repercussions of reporting a rape. She has also filed a lawsuit against the hotel, alleging her employers failed to protect her against the assault.

"The Embassy's deficient advice, led to (this woman) spending a hellish eight months in prison," Michelle James, the woman's lawyer, said in a statement. "(She) was not told she could be jailed for reporting a sexual assault. If she had known that, she would not have reported the assault and would have tried to leave the country immediately."

Neither lawsuit specifies the amount of damages the woman is seeking.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement it would defend the government against the woman's claim, but declined to comment on the case.