Steve Long, 39, from Stockport, Gtr Manchester, has been threatened with a 13-year prison term after suffering a psychotic episode and claiming there was a bomb on board his Etihad plane
Image: Clare Carrie)
A former British soldier who was beaten up in Dubai, facing a £100,000 fine after going through a ‘mental breakdown‘, has finally flown back to join his family in the UK.
Steve Long, 39, from Stockport, Gtr Manchester was on a three week holiday in the United Arab Emirates when he suffered a ‘paranoid episode’ and told Etihad staff and passengers there could be ‘a bomb” aboard his return flight on January 28.
The former corporal served in Bosnia and Iraq during his 16 years with the Royal Electrical Mechanics and Engineers (REME) regiment, but had never shown any signs of impact on his mental health, according to his family.
The father-of-four has been locked up by authorities in the United Arab Emirates after charges were brought by Etihad Airways for delaying the flight and scaring passengers.
His family claim he was ordered to pay £104,000 or serve 13 years in prison, prompting them to start a GoFundMe page to pay the fine and bring him home.
Speaking to the Mirror last month, Steve’s sister Clare Carrie, 37, said: ‘It all could have been avoided if they had just shown compassion and humanity towards him.
“He is not a criminal, he served his country and when he left the army he did public work in the ambulance service and constantly tried to help others.
“Etihad filed a complaint against him because of the delays he caused because they had to search the plane to make sure there was no bomb.
“But he clearly wasn’t doing well or thinking properly.”
CHRIS NEILL/MAVERICK PHOTOGRAPHY LIMITED)
Medical experts have suggested Steve has undiagnosed PTSD and suffered a psychotic episode triggered by the Houthi terror attack on an oil tanker in Abu Dhabi on January 17.
On January 17, the Houthi terror group killed three people and injured six others after launching a drone strike on an Abu Dhabi oil tanker and airport expansion. Steve was visiting friends in Dubai about 70 miles away at the time.
After the terror attack, Steve’s family said his behavior became erratic and distressed as they began receiving middle of the night voice notes and messages fearing for his safety.
Now Radha Stirling, founder and CEO of Detained in Dubai and Due Process International who helped the family, has confirmed that Steve has returned home.
But Ms Stirling criticized the UK government for ‘not’ helping to claim that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development (FCDO) had not intervened.
She said: “We are very happy to see his journey home finally complete so that Steve can get the help he needs.
“However, Abu Dhabi demanded a payment of £104,000 for Steve’s release, which is more than 96% of Britons earn in a year; it was an exorbitant fine that would have guaranteed a prison sentence for a man already suffering from severe psychological trauma if the family was unable to raise the funds.
“When the matter was brought to their attention, the FCDO did not intervene on Steve’s behalf, but his family and friends did.
“We released Steve’s story to the media immediately after his family contacted us and his family stepped up to raise the funds to pay the fine, but this is yet another failure on his part. of the British government in the protection of its citizens abroad.
“Steve’s arrest was unreasonable, and even airline staff initially did not agree to press charges, given Steve’s obvious distress.
“The UAE has a history of using criminal cases primarily for extortion, and Steve’s case is a prime example of that.
“Imprisonment would have been a cruel and unusual punishment for a man already suffering from a nervous breakdown, so they set the fine knowing that Steve’s family would do whatever was necessary to pay it; and apparently knowing that the FCDO would take no action to press for his compassionate release.
“Etihad pushed the police to drop the case after reviewing his medical evidence but by then it was too late.”
Ms Stirling added that Steve’s family were “ecstatic” to bring him home, but added that she had asked that their privacy be respected.
She added: “They are extremely grateful for the generous support of everyone who helped to enable them to pay the fine.
“The family has been through a nightmare over the past few weeks, and we are very happy to see this nightmare come to an end.”
But the human rights defender added that Steve’s case was a stark warning to other British tourists traveling to the UAE that they would not be protected by their government.
She said: “This case, however, represents a stark warning to all British citizens traveling to the UAE, and we can assume that the Emirates will only be emboldened by the way this matter has been resolved. Abu Dhabi has learned that the FCDO is effectively neutralized, and unless someone can get international media attention, they will have no legal recourse in the UAE.
The United Arab Emirates and the FCDO have both been approached for comment.