(NewsNation) — A New York student who has been detained in the United Arab Emirates since mid-July could face jail time after being accused of “assaulting and insulting” Dubai airport staff after “humiliating” treatment.
Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos was traveling from Istanbul to New York when she alleges she faced a painful and degrading search when she went through security at the Dubai airport. She’d stopped off in Dubai for the connecting flight while traveling with a friend on July 14.
The 21-year-old, studying business arts at Lehman College, was instructed to take off a waist trainer after undergoing surgery, according to Detained in Dubai, an organization aimed at helping victims of injustice in the Middle Eastern emirate.
De Los Santos claims the women gave her “nasty stares” and were laughing in Arabic at her swollen wounds. She needed help getting her waist trainer back off and tapped a security woman for help, but she was detained for allegedly “touching the female customs officer” during the search.
“We thought it would be a more modern and futuristic city but we were completely wrong,” De Los Santos said. “I was feeling uncomfortable and afraid. I felt really violated. I felt really embarrassed and taken advantage of.”
De Los Santos was held in a room for several hours as the officer filed a complaint against her. Then, she signed a form in Arabic and was allowed to leave the airport. However, hours later she received a travel ban and was ordered to pay a 10,000 AED fine, which equates to $2,722 USD.
Despite paying the fine, which usually serves as punishment, customs officials appealed her sentence. Dubai courts automatically allow appeals whether or not there is merit.
De Los Santos’ next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23.