A former British soldier who was imprisoned in Abu Dhabi facing a £100,000 fine after he refused to board a flight over fears there was a bomb on board has finally returned home. Steve Long, 39, from Stockport, was on a three-week holiday in UAE when he told passengers on the returning Etihad flight that there could be a bomb on the plane.
The 39-year-old father-of-four, from Offerton, served tours of Iraq and Bosnia and worked closely with bomb disposal unit. He flew out to the United Arab Emirates to visit a friend for three weeks back in January. His visit by him coincided with an apparent terrorist drone strike on the capital Abu Dhabi, in which three people died and six were injured.
The dad of four was locked up by UAE authorities after charges were brought forward by Etihad Airways for causing delays to the flight and scaring passengers, the Mirror reported. His family claimed he was ordered to pay £104,000 or serve 13 years in jail, prompting them to launch a GoFundMe page to pay the fine and get him home.
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Steve has no history of mental health illness, but his family said concerns for him grew up following the attack. His sister Clare Carrie, 37, a nurse from Offerton, said the plan was to fly Steve back home, but he was held at Abu Dhabi International airport ahead of his flight then charged with ‘making a false claim’.
She said he was taken to hospital under police guard then appeared before a judge via video link from his bed. The family said Steve was told he would face a jail sentence unless a huge fine of £103,000 was paid.
Speaking previously, she said: “Steve was arrested at the airport as he told staff he was scared there was a bomb on the plane – he worked with bomb disposal teams in the Army and has also provided medical support to teams as a civilian. He’s not criminal.
“He served his country and when he left the military he did public work in the ambulance service and tried to help others constantly. Etihad have brought the charges against him because of the delays he caused by them having to search the plane to ensure there was ‘t a bomb. But he was clearly not well or thinking straight.”
Now, Radha Stirling, founder and CEO of Detained in Dubai and Due Process International who had been assisting the family, confirmed that Steve has returned home from the ‘nightmare’. She told the Mirror: “We are very glad to see his journey home finally completed so Steve can receive the help he needs.
“However, Abu Dhabi demanded a payment of £104,000 for Steve’s release, which is more than what 96 per cent of Britons earn in a year; it was an exorbitant fine that would have guaranteed jail time had the family been unable to crowd-source the funds.
“The family has been through a nightmare over the past several weeks, and we are very happy to see that nightmare come to an end. They are immensely grateful for the generous support of all those who contributed to enable them to pay the fine.”