TAMPA, F.L. (WFTS)– A Florida man who was arrested in Abu Dhabi over a Facebook post he made in the United States is heading home.
Rep. David Jolly confirmed Tuesday that the charges against Ryan Pate have been dropped.
Now he will make the 27-hour plane trip half way around the world home to his fiancée.
“It’s a mixture of excitement and just cautiousness,” Jillian Cardoza said. “Until we have him home, physically here, and I can hold him in my arms, there is always that worry that something might happen.”
For the first time since Pate left Tampa, his fiancée spoke to him and laughed.
“It was the first time that we actually kind of were able to smile and meant it to each other and you could tell that,” she said.
Pate walked off a plane in United Arab Emirates Feb. 1 and was immediately arrested.
Pate faced a year in prison and a $50,000 fine for making disparaging remarks about his employer on his Facebook page. That’s against the law in the United Arab Emirates.
The confusing part for him is that he made the remarks while in the United States, where he has freedom of speech. He was arrested the moment he stepped off the plane in the UAE.
Pate acknowledged the mistake during an interview this month.
“What I did was wrong,” he said, “even though in the United States it’s not illegal.”
When Pate got to court for the trial Tuesday the charges were dropped. Jolly helped broker a deal that led the company in Abu Dhabi to drop the charges.
“The right of a United States citizen to lawfully engage in social media in the United States and be detained overseas,” Jolly said. “It’s a chilling precedent should the UAE [have] convicted Ryan in this case.”
Cardoza added, “Just want to say our gratitude towards the company for dropping the charges. Ultimately we would not be in this situation that we are right now without them doing that.”
Pate is waiting for paperwork to be finished and his passport returned. When it is, he will come back. It should be within the next month.
Both Pate and his fiancée said they will travel to Abu Dhabi again without hesitation. They add they will be more careful about their words next time.