A motion was presented in the South African parliament yesterday condemning the incarceration of Emlyn Culverwell, 29, and his pregnant fiancée‚ Iryna Nohai, 27, above, who are being held in a United Arab Emirates prison for having had an illicit sexual relationship.
The motion was presented by Democratic Alliance MP and deputy shadow environmental minister Terry Stander.
Whether this will have the effect of freeing the Culverville, a South African, and Ukrainian Nohai, is anyone’s guess.
Earlier, according to this report, South African officials said there was nothing they can do to free the pair.
The SA Department of International Relations and Cooperation media liaison spokesman Nelson Kgwete that the department was aware of the matter but the South African government was unable to interfere.
Standard consular assistance is being provided to the couple but the South African government cannot interfere in the judicial process in another sovereign country. Pregnant unmarried expatriate women are at risk of getting arrested‚ which happens from time to time as it is regarded as an offence in the UAE.
Culverwell’s mother Linda and his family have been fighting for the release of the couple for the last six weeks.
The couple were arrested in an Abu Dhabi hospital when a doctor revealed Nohai’s pregnancy. They were arrested when they could not provide a marriage certificate and for “acting immorally”. They were taken to Yas Police Station and then later to Al Wathba Prison.
Culverwell moved to the UAE five years ago to work as a water rescue operative at Yas Waterworld. It was in Abu Dhabi that he met Nohai‚ who worked as an administration officer‚ and the couple started their courtship.
On January 29‚ the couple’s world shattered when Nohai complained of stomach cramps. Being concerned for his fiancée’s well-being‚ Culverwell took her to the Medeor Medical Centre in Yas Mall for a check-up. It is then when the doctor broke the news that Nohai was pregnant.
People found guilty of flouting the country’s strict morality laws can be flogged and locked up for months to years under the Sharia-based legal system.
Since their arrest‚ no one‚ including employers and family members‚ has been able to make contact with the couple.
Linda Culverwell‚ who has gleaned information from her son’s colleagues‚ said the couple appeared before a judge once but were denied bail‚ denied any state appointed legal representation and were not charged.
The couple requested to be married in prison‚ but the same judge denied the request.
A Christian Church in Yas said that it was willing to marry the couple‚ at a substantial fee‚ but the same judge refused.
Culverwell’s mother said:
Our embassy is not doing enough. We hear nothing back from them‚ phone calls go unanswered‚ vague responses are given and even the emergency numbers don’t work. We have tried going through the consulate. The woman said she was going to see Emlyn after the second week after arrest‚ but never gave feedback. We have tried Amnesty International‚ Foreign Affairs and Human Rights‚ but we are nowhere closer to having word of them.
In the meantime‚ a colleague at Yas Waterworld‚ received word that part of the reason why the couple hasn’t been charged or allowed to marry is that Nohai is still undergoing tests to determine the paternity of the baby‚ to determine their HIV status as well as to see how long Noahi has been sexually active.
Linda Culverwell said:
I find it so degrading‚ I have worked my whole life in the medical field and I know there is no such test. The poor girl gave no consent for this. She must feel so violated‚ she must feel raped. At least the Ukraine embassy is trying hard to intervene and is pushing for them to get married.
I wish they would just deport them. Emlyn knows nothing. He probably doesn’t even know we are trying to get them out.
The UAE’s penal code criminalises Zina offences‚ especially for “guilty” women‚ with a minimum sentence of one year in prison. Zina offences include consensual sexual relations outside heterosexual marriage and other breaches of “morality”. Hundreds of women‚ most foreign‚ are locked up in the UAE every year for having sex outside of marriage – including pregnant women and rape victims. According to Human Rights Watch‚ the UAE’s Zina codes violate international human rights law which the UAE have signed treaties for.