A Florida man faces a potential five-year jail sentence in Dubai for a Facebook rant involving his employer, based in the United Arab Emirates, as the country and the company allege his posting constitutes cyber slander.
Ryan Pate, 30, is employed a subcontract helicopter mechanic for Global Aerospace Logistics, and learned that his pay would be suspended in relation to a sick time request. After learning about the pay issue, while back in the U.S. for the Christmas holiday, he posted a scathing note on the social network about the company and its decision.
When he returned to the UAE, he was notified that the police wanted to see him. He was arrested for what he posted.
"I said some pretty derogatory things that I do regret saying," Pate said. "I did slam them verbally," he said. "I called them backstabbers."
Following his arrest on Feb. 16, he reached out to Congressman David Jolly (R-Florida) and the U.S. Embassy regarding his arrest. On Feb. 24 he was released on bail. Jolly is working to get the charges dropped, stating that the Facebook post was done on U.S. soil and not in the UAE, which means Pate did not break any UAE laws.
The UAE prosecution told him he faces a potential $50,000 fine, prison time and deportation if convicted of the slander charges.
"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 said.
Jolly has asked the State Department to intervene on Pate's behalf and contends that Pate's First Amendment rights supersede the UAE charges.
"It is deeply troubling that Mr. Pate now faces judicial proceedings over an action that was done legally in his home country," Jolly wrote in a letter to UAE's attorney general.
The State Department says a consular representative visited Pate while he was jailed and that the embassy is providing help in regard to the criminal charges.
The rant on Facebook relates to an injury claim Pate made while back in the U.S. in December for a visit. He asked for an extended leave due to a back problem and his employer ultimately decided that if he took such a leave, there would be repercussions, which Pate said angered him and prompted him to call his employers "backstabbers" and warn others not to work for the employer.
As he awaits his next court appearance, set for Mar. 17, Pate said he is now remorseful and sorry for the Facebook post.
"I just want to apologize to everybody I dragged into this. It is embarrassing and I never meant for this to happen," he said.