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Irish PM intervenes in case of woman held in Dubai

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By Matt Fox and Lucy CarlinBBC News NI

Detained in Dubai group Tori ToweyDetained in Dubai group

Irish woman Tori Towey is in “the most appalling circumstances” in the United Arab Emirates, the Dáil heard

An Irish woman who is being prevented from leaving the United Arab Emirates has endured “the most horrific situation”, the taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) has said.

Tori Towey, 28, from Roscommon, is facing criminal charges – including attempted suicide and consuming alcohol – in the UAE and has had her passport destroyed.

She had been working as a flight attendant based in Dubai – the largest city in the UAE.

Simon Harris told reporters in Dublin on Wednesday morning that the Irish Government is now involved in diplomatic efforts to resolve the case.

Reuters Simon HarrisReuters

Taoiseach Simon Harris pledged to intervene on behalf of Tori Towey

The taoiseach said: “It is utterly, utterly unacceptable how an Irish citizen is being treated.”

He added: “That’s mild language in terms of how I feel”.

Mr Harris also said he has spoken to the young woman and her mother, who is with her in the UAE.

He went on to explain that she “has been the victim of male violence”.

Mr Harris said: “What Tori has been through is, I think, unimaginable for so many people here in this country, that a woman who has been the victim of a brutal attack found herself waking up not in a hospital, but in a police station”.

He added: “She needs to be supported, she needs to be brought back home to her home here in Ireland, and we need the travel ban lifted to make that happen”.

Family ‘very hopeful’

Earlier, Ann Flynn, Ms Towey’s aunt, told Irish broadcaster RTÉ that the family are “all very, very anxious” but that they are “just very hopeful”.

Ms Flynn said: “We keep hoping that we will get word that they’re on a plane on their way home. I don’t know will this court case go ahead or if it does what will happen?”

Ms Flynn said she has been in contact with Ms Towey and her mother “every day, several times a day”.

She described Ms Towey as a “beautiful young woman” who loved to travel, “was full of life and full of adventure”.

Speaking about the charge of attempting suicide, Ms Flynn said: “It’s very, very hard to believe it”.

Ms Flynn described how Ms Towey and her mother, Caroline, are “trying to keep positive” as are the rest of the family “but it’s on your mind constantly and I’m sure it’s on their mind”.

‘overwhelmed and exhausted’

A lawyer and human rights advocate who is assisting Ms Towey said she was overwhelmed and exhausted but was hopeful of being able to leave Dubai soon.

Radha Stirling, who runs the Detained in Dubai group, said she spoke to Ms Towey on Wednesday morning and that “things seem to be moving”.

“The Irish government is certainly stepping up in record time, we usually don’t see them come together that fast,” she said.

The lawyer also said the victims’ support division of the Dubai police had now contacted Ms Towey.

“I’m expecting with that diplomatic push we might be able to get her home even before the court date next week, but of course we have to plan that it could go very badly and she could end up with a prison sentence,” she told BBC News NI.

Ms Stirling previously said Ms Towey had been charged with consumption of alcohol and attempting suicide, both of which she said had historically been illegal in the UAE.

“The Irish government is rightly behind us in having the UAE police drop the case against her,” she said.

‘Most gross domestic violence’

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Simon Harris told RTÉ he had spoken to Ms Towey and her mother and said the “horrific situation” was “utterly unacceptable”.

Mr Harris said it was his “absolute priority” to get her “back home to Roscommon”.

The case came to international attention after it was raised by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald in the Dáil (Irish lower house of parliament) on Tuesday.

She said Ms Towey’s mother had travelled to Dubai to be with her and that she “wants to come home”.

“She has been the victim of the most gross domestic violence,” Ms McDonald said.

“Her passport has been destroyed. There was a travel ban imposed on her.”

The Irish government should make it “absolutely plain to the authorities of Dubai that no woman should be treated in this way”, Ms McDonald told the Dáil, and that “an Irish citizen, an Irish woman, will not be treated in this way”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of the case and was providing consular assistance.

The BBC has approached the UAE government for comment on the case.

  • If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this story you can visit BBC Action Line.

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