Singapore

Pair arrested in Abu Dhabi back in Singapore

The two Singaporeans arrested and jailed in Abu Dhabi for cross-dressing have returned to Singapore.

Fashion photographer Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman, 26, and his friend, Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, 37, were arrested in Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi on Aug 9.

On Aug 20, they were sentenced to a year's jail for dressing in women's clothes, but that sentence was on Sunday reduced to a 10,000 dirham (S$3,689) fine and deportation for both. Cross-dressing is illegal in Abu Dhabi.

The relieved pair arrived home yesterday on an Etihad Airways flight after almost three weeks in prison.

They were welcomed by family and friends at Changi Airport.

Mr Fadli told The Straits Times: "You know, every time when you go overseas, you don't want to come back?

"But now it is so good to be back and I feel so relieved."

He said they were thankful to Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and friends and family for helping them.

He was in Abu Dhabi for a fashion photo shoot and his friend, Nur Qistina - a transgender woman known to family and friends as Ms Fifi - had accompanied him.

He said they were arrested by tourism police five to 10 minutes after entering the mall on their second day there. "We were walking around to look for food when we were caught."

Mr Fadli said he was arrested for wearing earrings. As for his clothes, he said: "I was wearing my white buttoned-up long-sleeved shirt, black jeans and sneakers."

Ms Fifi was also in a long-sleeved shirt, jeans and sneakers.

Mr Fadli said they were thankful to Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his friends and family for helping.

Ms Fifi's younger sister, who wanted to be known only as Madam Rozy, 34, said she was happy and relieved to have her sibling home.

"Everything is finally over and Fifi is back safe and sound," said Madam Rozy.

"No words can describe my emotions right now."

Last Thursday, the pair's worried friends and family had started a fund-raising campaign to hire a lawyer in Abu Dhabi. The campaign hit its target of $25,000 in just a day, raising $27,054.06 from 160 donors.

Human rights activist Vanessa Ho, who is Mr Fadli's housemate and who helped with the fund-raising, said the lawyer billed them only $1,745 for three hours of work since "the case closed suddenly".

Ms Ho said the remaining amount will be returned to donors.

Posting about the return on Facebook, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan wrote: "Glad to know that our two fellow Singaporeans in Abu Dhabi, Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman and Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, are returning home today.

"I would like to express my appreciation to our colleagues at the Singapore Embassy in Abu Dhabi for their excellent work throughout the entire process.

"This is also a timely reminder for all Singaporeans to respect and abide by the local laws when travelling abroad."

ABU DHABIFamilyMINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (MFA)