British woman, 22, given jail term in Dubai over champagne-fuelled brawl escaped country ahead of sentencing by obtaining new UK passport and jetting home, despite no-fly ban
A British woman handed a three-month jail sentence for assaulting a Swedish man in Dubai avoided prison by getting a new passport and illegally flying home, MailOnline can reveal.
Asa Hutchinson, from Chelmsford, Essex, managed to escape house-arrest despite being put on a ‘no-fly’ list by authorities in the autocratic Gulf state.
The 22-year-old risked everything to return to the UK in June, three months ahead of Monday’s court hearing in which she was convicted in absentia over the 2016 brawl.
Ms Hutchinson obtained a new British passport and calmly boarded a plane to London, hoping that border guards would not notice the court order banning her from leaving the UAE.
Sentenced in absentia: British ex-pat Asa Hutchinson, 22, pictured on December 6, 2017 at Dubai Marina
Ms Hutchinson’s legal team asked the Swedish man to drop his prosecution – but she still faced a charge of assault and theft
She would have faced further charges if she was caught, MailOnline understands.
Ms Hutchinson now faces immediate arrest if she steps foot in the UAE and extradition if she lands in any of the neighbouring Gulf countries.
‘Asa left via the airport [in Dubai] and was fortunate not to have alerted the system [over the ‘no-fly’ court order],’ a source close to Ms Hutchinson told MailOnline.
‘She was able to do this because she had replaced her passport. This is not usually possible.
‘It was a huge risk and if she returns to the United Arab Emirates she will be arrested.
‘Asa also faces extradition if she travels to neighbouring Gulf countries.’
Ms Hutchinson was with two male friends and female friend when a champagne-fuelled row erupted after they took pictures of a sleeping Swedish businessman.
One of the group woke the man up by slapping him in the face before the women scratched him and stole his glasses and the fight escalated.
Ms Hutchinson (pictured in Dubai) was convicted without being at court because she is currently home in Chelmsford. It is not yet clear if she will have to return to Dubai to serve her sentence
Ms Hutchinson, 21, from Brentwood, Essex, right, with her ex-boyfriend, Ben Hall, left, in Dubai, in November 2015
Ms Hutchinson, who claimed she was only a witness to the fight and the Swedish man threw the first punches, was charged with assault and theft after the incident on April 29, 2016.
She was convicted alongside another man, 26, but the other three members of the group were never charged because they fled Dubai.
The victim, 54, was struck on the nose and kicked on the floor where he lay helpless and bleeding. A security guard at the restaurant testified that he saw the man being choked on the ground.
After the fight, Dubai police questioned Ms Hutchinson’s boyfriend Ben Hall and others in the group after getting their names from the hotel reservations list.
The men managed to get their passports back by paying cash deposits, before flying home to the UK.
The Swedish man then made the decision to transfer the charges to Ms Hutchinson after learning she lives in the UAE.
Dubai law dictates that whoever makes the first complaint is the party most likely to be believed, so it may be irrelevant that the Swedish man threw punches.
Taking pictures of someone without their consent and being rude to another person are both classed as Illegal in Dubai and are punishable by jail time.
A Dubai Police lieutenant said that CCTV from the venue – a restaurant in Al Fattan Currency House – showed the Swedish man sleeping as the group approached him.
The Swedish man decided to transfer the charges to Ms Hutchinson (left with her ex-boyfriend) after discovering that she was still living in the UAE
A medical report revealed that the victim suffered a broken nose, finger and toe as well as scratches and bruises and was left with a one percent permanent disability as a result of an injury to his left nostril.
An NGO representing Ms Hutchinson, Detained in Dubai, said she had seen none of the pictures, but did see the boys being hit by the Swedish tech executive.
‘The boys managed to flee Dubai before being arrested, and so the Swede laid all the charges on Asa,’ a spokesman said.
‘All of the alleged assailants in this incident were released, but because Asa was living in Dubai, and the Swedish man misidentified her as a participant in the row, she was wrongly charged with the assault.
‘Asa has been sentenced in absentia, despite there being no evidence to corroborate the questionable testimony of the alleged victim.
‘We are glad that Asa is safe in the UK, but this judgment demonstrates how easily convictions occur in the UAE in the absence of any acceptable standards of due process.’
It has become an increasingly common occurrence for foreigners to be convicted in absentia in the UAE, particularly when the evidence against them is weak or non-existent; as they are denied the opportunity to defend themselves, Detained in Dubai claims.
As Ms Hutchinson awaited trial, her father Iain pleaded for complainant Bjorn Roden to ‘show some compassion’ to his daughter and drop the charges against her.
He said: ‘Asa is a young girl in a foreign country, being subjected to a legal system not at all like what we are accustomed to.
Left: Ms Hutchinson in Dubai where she worked. Right: Lucie Harrison, mother of Asa Hutchinson, outside her home in Brentwood
‘We understand how perturbed the complainant in this case, Mr Bjorn Roden, must have felt when the incident occurred, but Asa is innocent, and we ask him to show some compassion for our daughter and drop his complaint before she winds up in jail for something she didn’t do’.
He added: ‘This older guy was the one hitting everyone, he ought to know better at his age than getting into drunken fights with kids.
‘And now he can’t throw his weight around and get them into trouble, he is picking on my young daughter.’
Speaking on November 30, Asa said: ‘I appeal to the man prosecuting to drop the charges.
‘If you feel someone has wronged you, it really wasn’t me.
‘My friends leaving the country only affects me because this man has now decided to charge me instead.
‘I really don’t feel like I have done anything to deserve being charged.
‘I love my life in Dubai and want to stay here. I have tried to reason with the man because I’m so worried, but it has fallen on deaf ears.
Ms Hutchinson’s legal team claimed opening the case against her client was ‘morally wrong’. Pictured: Asa (right) with her former boyfriend Ben Hall and his mother, Samantha
‘He only wants to prosecute, and the guys who actually did it are not here, which has left me in the firing line.’
She added: ‘Going to prison would be awful. I just couldn’t bear it, I really hope it doesn’t get that far.
‘I want to thank everyone around the world for the messages of support I have been getting.
‘I also want to tell my mum and dad, Lucie and Iain that I love them and miss them very much.’
‘It is so unfair, I was not involved, I just happened to be there, but the police are not interested in anything I have to say,’ she added.
‘Once the man made his complaint it was taken as fact. I can’t go to jail, I couldn’t cope.’
Ms Hutchinson’s mother has previously defended her daughter, saying she is ‘absolutely and completely innocent’.
Lucie Harrison, 52, said: ‘Asa is absolutely and completely innocent- she was there at the time but all she did was pick some glasses up off the floor and put them in the bin because she was worried someone would step on them.
‘What I find really upsetting is that Asa has not turned her back and run away- she was saying, I’ve done nothing.
‘She’s really taking the rap, those guys in Dubai really seem to do things by association, I just find the whole thing so shocking.’
Ms Hutchinson earlier lost her job after the incident and authorities seized her passport. Pictured: Inside Dusty’s Bar where Asa and her friends spent the evening before the fight
It was previously reported Ms Hutchinson was forced to sign confession papers written only in Arabic or be jailed immediately, her lawyers claimed.
Her representatives said she was put under ‘extreme pressure’ to sign lengthy legal papers written only in Arabic when she was arrested last April.
In a statement previously released, Ms Hutchinson said: ‘I was told to sign the papers, or I would be going straight to prison.
‘By this stage I was terrified. I had no choice but to sign those papers. I was so scared of prison.’
Detained in Dubai CEO Radha Stirling said: ‘Asa’s experience echoes that of countless others.
‘A conspicuously high number of cases in the UAE are concluded as a result of suspects’ ‘confessions’ often in lieu of any other type of evidence collected through investigation.
‘Suspects are put under extreme pressure to sign ‘confessions’ in Arabic.
‘We have even seen cases where suspects were forced to sign blank documents upon which the police later wrote their ‘confessions’.
‘These invalid confessions carry decisive weight in trials, despite the coercion used to obtain them.
‘Westerners need to bear in mind that the legal system in the UAE has a long way to go before it is as modern as the skyline’.
Ms Hutchinson, right, claims that she was nothing more than a bystander to the fight that erupted when the man woke up