Tampa Man Arrested in Middle East for Facebook Post in Florida

Tampa Man Arrested in Middle East for Facebook Post in Florida

posted Saturday Mar 7, 2015 by Scott Ertz

In the United States, Facebook is filled with a collection of things, like 16 things you didn't know about a TV show, obligatory birthday wishes, photos of food and pets, selfie challenges and political debates. With all of this, the most common thing we find on Facebook is complaints, be it about friends, family, business or work. It is a great outlet for anger and insanity with little to no repercussions, unless your employer trolls Facebook pages.

The one thing you can guarantee is that no matter how much you complain about work from the comfort of your home, you will never be arrested for your complaints. That rule assumes that you stay within the confines of that home, or at least the confines of the country. Unfortunately, it turns out that rule goes right out the window as soon as you leave the country, especially if you are going to the Middle East for work.

A Tampa Bay area resident, Ryan Pete, found out this exemption the hard way after he left his Belleair Bluffs home, where he had posted about his anger at his employer. The post had been pretty scathing because of issues over leave because of a back injury which required he stay in Tampa longer than originally planned. He flew to the Middle East, where he is a helicopter mechanic, where he was promptly arrested.

As it turns out, in the United Arab Emirates it is illegal to complain about your employer. Now, this doesn't apply just to Facebook; in fact, the law prohibits anyone from slandering their employer at all, whether it be online or in print. Ryan Pete said in an interview after the arrest,

I just couldn't register it in my head because as an American growing up in the United States, the First Amendment right is just ingrained in my brain. I never even entertained the fact that I would wind up in prison out here for something I put on Facebook in the United States.

He has been released on bail, but faces a trial that will take place on March 17. If he is found guilty of the "crime" he faces up to 5 years in prison and a steep fine. His congressman, Rep. David Jolly, has intervened, getting the State Department and Emirates to agree to drop the case because the post took place on American soil.

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