Monday, September 28, 2009

Toronto gay couple detained nearly a month in Dubai for possession of arthritis medicine

Rocky Sharma and Stephen Macleod, a gay couple from Toronto, were detained for 28 days in Dubai for carrying the prescription arthritis drug Celebrex, which is banned in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). reports:
Rocky Sharma and Stephen Macleod, who have been together for 10 years, were stopped upon arrival in Dubai on Aug 2, where they planned to spend the day before returning to Toronto from a vacation in India.

Stephen Macleod had a bottle of the prescription arthritis medication Celebrex in his suitcase. They were told Celebrex is a controlled substance in UAE and, even though they did not present themselves to border officials as a couple, both partners were detained. “I think they thought we were gay and we would have some party drugs with us,” says Sharma, who is now safely back at home with his partner. “They were definitely targeting people who are young, from the western world and nicely dressed, like they are going to party.”

Sharma says he and Macleod were given limited information about why they were being detained because border officials in the UAE did not speak English.

The UAE has very tough drug laws. Even over-the-counter medications that include traces of codeine are restricted. Possession can result in lengthy jail sentences, heavy fines or the death penalty, according to an advisory issued by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). Calls to DFAIT were not returned before press time. READ MORE