Anger over UAE jailing of Singaporeans for 'dressing feminine'

SINGAPORE - The family of a Singaporean man jailed with a transgender friend in the United Arab Emirates for dressing in a "feminine" way called Friday for their release, as activists raced to raise funds for legal fees.

Fashion photographer Muhammad Fadli bin Abdul Rahman and transgender friend, Noor Vitriya Kistina Ibrahim, were arrested at a shopping mall in Abu Dhabi and sentenced to a year in jail at the weekend, according to relatives.

Fadli's brother Saiful told AFP from Singapore that the pair were detained by the tourism police for "looking feminine".

Advocacy group Detained in Dubai said they were convicted of charges related to "inappropriate behaviour over their clothing". The group confirmed both were sentenced to a year in jail.

Fadli, 26, told his family that he was wearing earrings and a tie at the time of his arrest, Saiful added.

Mr Fadli's brother, Mr Saiful Rahman with his mother and sister holding a phone displaying a photo of Mr Fadli.Photo: TNP

"We want them released and back to Singapore as soon as possible," he said, adding his brother was a "friendly, happy-go-lucky and jovial person." "We were informed that he was arrested for looking feminine, but looking feminine is very broad. It was emotional, my parents broke down when they heard the news," he added.

Rights activists in Singapore launched an online crowd-funding campaign to raise $25,000 for their legal and other fees and breached their target just after midday Friday, according to their Facebook page.

Photo: Facebook

Noor is described by activists as a transgender person who has not yet undergone sex change surgery to become a woman.

Radha Stirling, head of London-based advocacy group Detained in Dubai and managing partner at the Stirling Haigh law firm, said Thursday her organisation will appeal the verdict and request the sentence be dropped to a fine and deportation.

The United Arab Emirates criminalises sodomy, as well as both pre-marital and extra-marital sex.

Article 358 of the penal code also criminalises "indecent attire" as an act of public indecency.