Elderly American Professor Arrested For Taking Picture Of Sign Prohibiting Photography In The United Arab Emirates

1907858_713976835361012_7424677237227212493_nDr. Alan Black, an American professor, was arrested last month for taking a picture of a sign banning photography. That act could send him to jail for five years. Various sites have been created to rally support for Roberts who is facing an absurdly harsh legal system and a rule against photography that can only be described as pathological.

Black was detained without a charge after he stopped and took the picture in the capital of the UAE. The case has highlighted the brutal conditions and lack of due process in the UAE. Black has been allowed no representation and was held in secret. He was allowed only two brief calls and, despite international obligations, it took two days before the UAE (or erstwhile ally) notified the American embassy of his arrest.

Black is reportedly an avid photographer and nothing more than that. One of his last pictures below was captioned “walking the streets of Abu Dhabi.” He was arrested the next day.


Despite our continued support for the UAE, our State Department in 2013 denounced the country for “arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, and lengthy pretrial detentions” as well as “police and prison guard brutality.” The Black case shows vividly that such criticism is, if anything, understated.

Black was lecturing at a conference in the city and should have shown greater judgment. However, the response from the UAE is draconian and absurd.

Under article 168 of the UAE Penal Code, anyone caught taking pictures of palaces, embassies and security facilities can be sentenced to up to five years in jail and subject to a large fine. Three years ago, a tourist was given a month in jail for simply taking photos of the presidential palace.

Putting aside the law itself, the abuse of basic due process rights in the UAE belies its assertion that it is a modern and developing nation. Black is an elderly professor with a penchant for photography and a lack of inhibitions. If the UAE cannot see that, it is engaging in willful blindness.


Source: Daily Mail

76 thoughts on “Elderly American Professor Arrested For Taking Picture Of Sign Prohibiting Photography In The United Arab Emirates”

  1. My dad went to Saudi Arabia many times for the military and on business. Lots of rules to follow.

    He also said he and all the other idiots in suits would be near perishing in the 120 degree heat, while the Saudis would wear those flowing white robes . . . cannot remember what he called them. That right there is a great reason for teleconferencing meetings.

  2. I think it would certainly be prudent to stop having conventions or business conferences in the UAE. If business is to be arranged with one of the Emirates it is best performed on a neutral soil.

    There are however many other nations which have restrictions on photography upon government buildings and military installations, the latter being more common. But these I speculate are becoming less common since it is really of no practical value given the availability of cell phone cameras and greater technology available for those doing actual spying. Essentially such laws are a relic of the past. Unless a country is like North Korea, where everything is tightly controlled, this is not a practical law.

    I believe in the UAE it is more about subjugation than anything. Obey the law or else.

  3. Paul:

    Somebody’s satellite did… Like Sherwin Williams, they cover the earth.

  4. If it is unlawful to take these kind of photographs, where do the images appearing on Google Earth, Wikipedia and other websites come from? Criminality abounds!

      1. People get permission when they have certain reasons to photograph. It is a security thing, so, if one is a professional photographer, one would go through “channels”.

  5. You go to another country and the law is clearly stated, in ENGLISH and they are picking on you because he is an American when he blatantlly ignores it in the most obvious way? He can’t even plead ignorance! He took a picture of a sign saying it is illegal to photograph the site!

    If he is incompetent,he shouldn’t be let out alone. If he thinks his constitutional rights work in other countries, he has another think coming. I don’t have a lot of sympathy. He showed no respect for the laws of another country. Some think American laws are harsh and overly punitive-we have the highest incarceration rate in the world, don’t we? When visitors break our laws, we aren’t too sympathetic and think that anyone claiming cultural consideration is taking advantage.

  6. LOL! The FACTS are Dems got pimp slapped and the cultists just can’t seem to accept that very basic FACT. Those “sewer cleaners” you mock can see that. The elitist, and elitist wannabe cultist, can’t accept that FACT. Denial and anger is all I’m seeing from cultists so far. I pray you all move through the stages of grief. But, it’s not looking good so far.

  7. judge raff, The first step in getting help is having self awareness. Seeing that you have a problem, and then deciding to fix the problem. So, it would not be part of the therapeutic model for me to tell people they are cultists. It is incumbent on them to see they have been caught up in the Obama cult. One would think this bloodbath, which all non cultists saw coming, would be enough. But, there’s still a lot of denial. I told SWM this was coming months ago.

  8. Putting aside the law itself, the abuse of basic due process rights in the UAE belies its assertion that it is a modern and developing nation.

    We believe in due process and rights. They don’t. It is their country… and that is that. If Mr. Black thought he could flaunt the rules and laws and customs of another country because we have due process rights in THIS country, I guess he just now found out that not everyplace is America and not everyone has the same rights or entitlements.

    Agree with Sierra Rose. Actions have consequences.

  9. As long as people keep blowing off the results of their actions, they will refuse to change.

    But I do hope that Liberals stay the course so we can stop this downward slide in 2016.

  10. “Black is an elderly professor with a penchant for photography and a lack of inhibitions. If the UAE cannot see that, it is engaging in willful blindness.”

    And they had a clearly posted regulation. If Black could not follow the law then he was engaging in willful illegality.

    Are their laws unreasonable by our standards? Certainly. But they are their laws and he willfully disobeyed them. That shows an arrogant disregard for the laws, customs, an culture of a country in which he was a guest. His choices have consequences of which he was or should have been aware.

  11. And, just in case I haven’t beat this dead horse enough, we should vote with our dollars! We can’t force our views on everyone else in the world, but we certainly don’t have to subsidize it.

    But the UAE are fair-weather allies for us in a sea of extremism that we are loathe to offend.

  12. Just one more reason to not travel to UAE.
    You are correct about the mid terms usually being a debacle for the party in the White House. The idea that McConnell who has orchestrated over 400 filibusters is now going to be a bi-partisan leader is hilarious.

  13. I’m one of those people who get the irresistible urge to touch something the moment I’m told not to. When I’ve been invited into the cockpits of planes (pre 9/11) I would literally sit on my hands.

    That’s the trouble when you travel to countries that abuse human rights. You have to tread very carefully, and be sure that you break no laws or offend any officials. It’s a good idea to have a handler with you, familiar with the laws and customs who can try to keep you out of trouble.

    You do not want to be arrested in the Middle East. It’s not like here.

    1. Karen – when I visited outside Area 51 I was very tempted to enter, however the sign on the fence and the armed vehicles on the ridge stopped me. Even taking a picture of the sign seemed iffy. Better safe and alive then dead.

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