Ryan Pate took a break in December from his contracting job in the United Arab Emirates. He headed home to Florida to visit with family, get engaged, and seek treatment for a bad back, per the AP. But irate Facebook posts the 30-year-old made about his UAE employer caused trouble for him when he got back to the Middle East: He was arrested Feb. 16, thrown in jail for 10 days, and now faces a March 17 trial for breaking an Emirati law against slandering employers. He faces as many as five years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine, the Tampa Tribune reports. "I just couldn't register it in my head, because as an American growing up in the United States, the First Amendment right is just ingrained in my brain," the Black Hawk helicopter mechanic tells the AP. "I never even entertained the fact that I would wind up in prison out here for something I put on Facebook in the United States."
The brouhaha with Global Aerospace Logistics came about after it denied his request for more US sick leave so he could attend to his back. After what the AP describes as a "particularly unsatisfactory phone call," Pate let loose on GAL via a Facebook mechanics group. He says he doesn't recall specifics, except calling his supervisors "backstabbers" and cautioning other contractors; he also reportedly went off on UAE life, the BBC notes, and his fiancee says he referenced "filthy Arabs." When he got back to Abu Dhabi intending to end his employment with GAL, the cops showed him screenshots of his posts and informed him GAL had filed charges against him for violating cyberlaws that ban going online to "mock or deride organizations and individuals," per the BBC. The GoFundMe page Pate's fiancee set up has more of his story. (An American woman has been jailed in Japan for having Adderall.)