29-year-old Emlyn Culverwell from South Africa and his 27-year-old Ukrainian fiancée Iryna Nohai have been imprisoned in Abu Dhabi for unlawful sex outside of marriage. A relative revealed the arrests came when Nohai, who was suffering from stomach cramps, went to the Medeor Medical Centre in Yas Mall in Abu Dabi. A doctor who examined her told her she was pregnant.
In the United Arab Emirates, sex outside of marriage is a criminal offense according to the country’s strict morality laws and the perpetrators face lengthy prison sentences and deportation.
The couple were reportedly detained on the 29th of January. Two days before this they had gotten engaged.
Although the couple have been detained for a month-and-a-half already, details of the arrest are just emerging.
Culverwell and Nohai were arrested at the hospital after not being able to provide marriage certificates. However, the couple have not been charged yet, because authorities are still investigating how long the couple were sexually active.
They were initially taken to Yas Police Station and later detained in the Al Wathba Prison. It has been reported authorities are also investigating the paternity of the child and testing Nohai’s HIV status.
Culverwell has been working in the Emirates for the past five years as a water rescue operative at Yas Waterworld. He first started dating Nohai, who worked as an administration officer, in mid-2014. They got engaged just two days before their arrest, on the 27th of January.
Culverwell has been working in the UAE for the past five years and first started dating Nohai in 2014.
According to News24, South Africa’s foreign ministry has claimed their hands are tied since the issue at hand is in direct conflict with domestic UAE law. Culverwell and Nohai have been advised to seek legal help, which is estimated could cost up to 118‚000 South African rands ($8‚000) per person.
Culverwell’s mother, Linda, said that Nohai was still in the early stages of her pregnancy. She suggested that the cramps could be a sign of a miscarriage.
She has pleaded for the release of her son and his fiancée, saying that ‘the only thing they did wrong was fall in love’.
Linda described Emlyn as a health fanatic who refrains from alcohol and drugs. Since the couple’s arrest, family members and friends have been unable to contact them.
Emlyn’s mom also told News24 that her family is ‘trying to get messages to the two to say we love them and they shouldn’t be worried’.
She said that the only people who can visit the couple are family members who share the same last name. Relatives are currently calculating the costs of making a trip to Abu Dhabi with lawyers.
According to Herald Live, a Christian Church based in the United Arab Emirates’ Yas Island offered to marry the couple but demanded a hefty fee – an offer which was rejected by a judge.
According to UAE law, Nohai is guilty of ‘Zina’, the Islamic legal term referring to unlawful sexual intercourse, which is criminalized in the country.
Women and couples found guilty of Zina are either deported or imprisoned for at least a year. Hundreds of women are imprisoned on this basis yearly, including pregnant women and rape victims.