British soldier jailed in Dubai after he said he saw bomb on plane returns to UK

Steve Long, 39, from Stockport, Gtr Manchester, was threatened with a jail sentence of 13 years after he suffered a psychotic episode and claimed there was a bomb on board his Etihad plane

Steve has finally returned home after a three month battle to get him back to the UK

A former British soldier who was left banged up in Dubai facing £100,000 fine after having a “mental breakdown” has finally flown home to his family in the UK.

Steve Long, 39, from Stockport, Gtr Manchester was on a three week holiday in UAE when he suffered a “paranoid episode” and told Etihad staff and passengers there could be “a bomb” on board his flight home on January 28.

The former corporal served in Bosnia and Iraq during his 16 year stretch in the Royal Electrical Mechanics and Engineers (REME) regiment, but had never shown signs of the toll on his mental health, according to his family.

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.

His family claim 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.

Steve served in the forces for 16 years and worked with bomb disposal squads all over the world



Speaking to the Mirror last month, Steve’s sister, Clare Carrie, 37, said: “It could have all been prevented if they had just shown some compassion and humanity towards him.

“He’s not a 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 wasn’t a bomb.

“But he was clearly not well or thinking straight.”

Steve’s sister Clare was forced to launch a GoFundMe in a bid to raise the fine money



Medical experts suggested Steve had undiagnosed PTSD, and had suffered a psychotic episode triggered by the Houthi terrorist attack on an Abu Dhabi oil tanker on January 17.

On January 17 the Houthi terrorist group killed three people and injured six more after launching a drone strike on an Abu Dhabi oil tanker and airport extension. Steve was visiting friends in Dubai some 70 miles away at the time.

After the terror attack, Steve’s family said his behavior became erratic and distressed, as they began receiving voice notes in the middle of the night and messages fearing for his safety.

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.

Steve worked his way up to Corporal in the REME regiment



His family were left devastated and terrified by his detention



But Ms Stirling slammed the British government for “failing” to help claiming the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development (FCDO) did not intervene.

She said: “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% of Britons earn in a year; it was an exorbitant fine that would have guaranteed jail time for a man already suffering severe psychological trauma had the family been unable to crowd-source the funds.

“When the case was brought to their attention, the FCDO did not intervene on Steve’s behalf, but his family and friends did.

“We released Steve’s story to the media immediately after his family contacted us, and his family mobilized to collect the funds to pay off the fine; but this is yet another failure on the part of the British government in protecting its citizens abroad.

Steve with his wife Heloise



“Steve’s arrest was unreasonable, and even airline staff did not initially agree to press charges, given Steve’s clear distress.

“The UAE has a history of using criminal cases essentially for extortive purposes, and Steve’s case is a prime example.

“Imprisonment would have been cruel and unusual punishment for a man already in the grips of a mental breakdown, so they set the fine knowing Steve’s family would do whatever necessary to pay it; and apparently knowing that the FCDO would not take any action to press for his compassionate release.

“Etihad pushed the police to drop the case after reviewing his medical evidence but by then, it was too late.”

Ms Stirling added that Steve’s family were “ecstatic” to have him back home but added that they had asked for their privacy to be respected.

Steve was jailed after suffering a mental health relapse in Abu Dhabi


Getty Images/iStockphoto)

She added: “They are immensely grateful for the generous support of all those who contributed to enable them to pay the fine.

“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.”

But the human rights advocate added that Steve’s case was a stark warning for other British tourists heading to the UAE that they will not be protected by their government.

She said: “This case, however, represents a stark warning to any British citizens traveling to the UAE, and we can assume that the Emirates will only be emboldened by how this case was resolved. Abu Dhabi has learned that the FCDO is effectively neutralized, and unless someone is able to gain the attention of the international media, they will have no recourse for justice in the UAE.”

The UAE and FCDO were both approached for comment.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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