NYC college student Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos FREED from Dubai after she was slapped with one YEAR sentence for tapping airport security officer’s arm
- Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos is said to be ecstatic to be heading back to the US after having her sentence commuted
- The 21-year-old New York student was detained in Dubai on July 14 after ‘gently’ touching an airport security guard during a strip search
A 21-year-old New York college student has been freed from a Dubai jail after previously facing a year behind bars in one of the nation’s notorious prisons.
Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos was handed the harsh sentence after she tapped an airport security officer on the arm during a strip search as they checked her medical waist binder and left her half-naked in Dubai International Airport on July 14.
The student, who attends Lehman College in the Big Apple, was passing through the nation from Istanbul on her way to New York when she was detained with a friend.
Instead of the 10-hour layover she was expecting, De Los Santos was subjected to a months-long ordeal after inadvertently tapping the airport security guard.
The female officer accused De Los Santos of ‘assaulting and insulting’ them, which Santos denied. She was forbidden to travel home, and this week was sentenced to a year behind bars despite paying an AED 10,000 ($2,722) fine.
As her sentence was commuted, the student is said to be ecstatic to be heading back to the US, where she will be reunited with her mother in New York.
Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos is said to be ecstatic to be heading back to the US after having her sentence commuted
The 21-year-old student was accused of ‘assaulting and insulting’ an airport security guard during a strip search earlier this year
According to a press release from non-profit advocacy group Detained in Dubai, police told De Los Santos that she would be sent home to the US on Tuesday, despite her sentence being handed down just the day before.
During her nightmare ordeal inside the airport, De Los Santos said she had tried to alert security that she was wearing a brace with an underwiring on it.
She told airport officials she had recently had surgery and was mandated to wear the surgical brace around the clock.
The student was stunned to then be carted off to a private room and ordered to remove the brace, which left her feeling ‘violated’ as it left her semi-naked.
After she was eventually cleared, De Los Santos was unable to get the brace back on herself, leading her to try and get help from her friend.
But her decision to ‘gently’ touch a female customs officer’s arm to get the attention of her friend sparked chaos, with the staffer accusing De Los Santos of assault.
After hostilities ensued inside the airport, De Los Santos immediately paid a fine and expected to be let go, but was instead forbidden from leaving the country pending a court date after prosecutors asked for the option to send her to jail.
With her case appealed by customs officials, the delay left her in agonizing limbo for months, all while forking out $50,000 to afford accommodation and legal fees in the lucrative nation.
De Los Santos has said her traumatic experience in the Dubai airport left her feeling ‘violated’, and has since had to pay over $50,000 for accommodation and legal fees
At the time of her detention, De Los Santos said: ‘We thought it would be a more modern and futuristic city, but we were completely wrong.’
She also claimed her mother has been left in ‘shock and suffering. She is really worried and keeps crying.’
Despite previously being told she would be allowed to leave the country, her ongoing case and the unpredictability of Dubai’s legal system reportedly led her to fear she would wind up being housed at the infamous Al Awis prison.
The 21-year-old’s predicament led to widespread calls for her release, alongside warnings to other travelers to be extra cautious in the Middle Eastern nation.
Detained in Dubai, which has advocated for her release, called on officials to put safeguards in place to prevent any other visitors to the country facing lengthy and unfair detention.
‘People could end up detained in the UAE for years on bogus or minor charges’, said CEO Radha Stirling, adding that she wants to warn Americans Dubai is ‘a dangerous place to visit.’
Stirling, speaking before De Los Santos was freed, referenced the case of TikTok influencer Tierra Young Allen, who was held in the same country for three months earlier this year for ‘shouting’ at a car park employee.
‘One thing these Americans have in common is that they regret the day they ever decided to visit Dubai and they all continue to intensely warn other citizens to avoid the region,’ Stirling said.
TikTok influencer Tierra Young Allen, who was held in Dubai three months earlier this year for ‘shouting’ at a car park employee, is another recent example of why some are calling for extra vigilance in visits to the Middle Eastern nation
Pictured: Dubai’s Al-Awir Central Prison located in the United Arab Emirates, where De Los Santos was reportedly fearing she may be sent to serve her harsh sentence
A doctor shows a hallway at the medical center of Dubai’s Al-Awir central prison in the United Arab Emirates
De Los Santos has spent months in limbo awaiting her fate after her surprise detention on July 14
Stirling told DailyMail.com that the sentence imposed on Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos was a prime example of how holidays to the United Arab Emirates can end in a nightmare.
Describing it as a potential ‘one way ticket’ to jail, Stirling said tourists have in the past fallen foul of the harsh laws in the desert paradise known for its glitz and glamour and favored by an army of influencers.
‘Tourists are vulnerable to vindictive, false and unevidenced allegations that could leave them languishing in notorious jails,’ she said.
‘They are vulnerable to extortion schemes like we see from airport staff, rental car agents, taxi drivers and so on… For many tourists a trip to Dubai can be a one-way ticket to jail. ‘
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