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US Woman on Trial for Insulting UAE

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A 25-year-old American woman appeared in court Monday after being held in Abu Dhabi for seven weeks for allegedly insulting the United Arab Emirates while waiting for a taxi outside the airport.

The unidentified woman told the court she did not know why she was on trial. She has been in custody since February 23.

Government-owned daily The National reported that the women claims she was approached by two men who spoke to her in a manner she did not like. "The men tried to help me. I had another flight to catch at 1:29 am. I refused to engage with them and nothing happened," The National quoted her as saying.

The woman has asked the court to allow her to pay a fine and be released. A verdict is scheduled for May 2, the local paper reports.

Although liberal on many other issues, the UAE has strict laws governing expression. Defamation is treated as a criminal offense and insulting the UAE's leaders or the nation itself often comes with a prison sentence and heavy fine.