Fitness guru faces lengthy prison sentence for post on Instagram
Dubai has a bit of a history when it comes to detaining people for innocuous actions or comments. Last October, there was the British man who faced three years in jail after accidentally touching a man on the hip when out drinking. But it seems this isn't the only case, after this man faced similar consequences for using one word.
Jordan Branford, an American fitness guru, is currently being held in Dubai and possibly even facing a prison sentence for breaking the United Arab Emirates' strict cybercrime laws. Branford, who has lived in the country since 2008 but originally hails from Eugene, Oregon, has to pay a $68,000 fine or spend up to seven years in prison... all for using the word 'b*tch' in an Instagram story.
His estranged wife reported him for using the word in an Instagram post, leading to the authorities seizing his passport until he complies with the fine or turns himself over to serve the prison sentence, which could last up to seven years. Their marriage fell apart in early 2017, as he recently explained to The Daily Mail:
"I was working a lot of hours trying to build up my fitness business, American Fitness. My own father was not around when I was young and my mother and I were left to fend for ourselves.
I really wanted to make a comfortable future for my beautiful son, Jadan. My friends and people I knew were coming to me everyday with reports of my wife behaving in ways that no spouse would accept."
His ex-wife tried unsuccessfully to sue him multiple times after the divorce, a lengthy process that the frustrated the fitness guru. Branford posted a short clip of himself to his Instagram stories to complain about the legal fees, in which he said:
"So I woke up today and heard the b*tch made another case".
Since this comment was reported, he said he has had to spend more than $230,000 in legal fees, and was supposedly treated in an "aggressively and hostile manner", particularly when he was arrested and brought to the Dubai Court of First Instance in March 2017. He also lamented the fact that he is now unable to see his 17-year-old son, who lives back in Oregon.
"This has been hanging over me for 20 months. I have spent all my money and lost my business trying to fight it. The future I was preparing for my boy is gone," Stanford said. "I was heartbroken. I know that when marriages end, it is often bitter, but she really tried to ruin me and it seems that now she has succeeded."
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, released a statement about the case:
"Most people are unaware that they are likely already in breach of the Cybercrime laws when they arrive in the country.
Under these poorly drafted and arbitrarily enforced laws, visitors can even be subject to prosecution for posts they have shared from outside of the UAE, years before visiting.
Laws are open to manipulation and abuse by disgruntled partners, friends or colleagues. In the event of a falling out, a criminal complaint can be easily made to authorities. Even if the complaint is trivial, it can lead to arrest, lengthy detention, fines, years in prison and deportation”.
Hopefully, with people like Stirling fighting for his rights, Stanford should be able to get away from such a harsh punishment. It's not like what he said was nice, but it's not worth going to prison over, that's for sure.