Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos, a 21-year-old college student from New York City, has been released from prison in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) following an altercation at Dubai International Airport, according to advocacy group Detained in Dubai.
De Los Santos, a student at Lehman College in the Bronx, had been sentenced to one year in prison after being accused of assaulting and insulting customs officials at the airport.
Detained in Dubai, an organization that supports foreign nationals detained and prosecuted in the UAE, reported that De Los Santos had been held in Dubai since July. She was returning to New York from a trip to Istanbul with a friend when they had a 10-hour layover in Dubai on July 14.
During the security screening process, a security officer asked De Los Santos, who had recently undergone surgery, to remove a medical waist trainer she was wearing. Despite complying, she repeatedly asked for assistance from female customs officers to put the compressor back on but received no help. While calling out to her friend for assistance, De Los Santos lightly touched the arm of one of the female officers to guide her out of the way, as she explained to Detained in Dubai. She was then detained for touching the officer, signed Arabic paperwork, and was eventually allowed to leave the airport. However, when she returned from her flight to the US, she was informed of a travel ban against her.
On August 24, judges ordered De Los Santos to pay a fine of 10,000 dirhams (approximately $2,700), but customs officials appealed the sentence. Ultimately, she was sentenced to one year in prison. Detained in Dubai claimed that the UAE government was pressuring De Los Santos into making a compensatory payment or facing imprisonment. The group called for her immediate release and urged the State Department to revise its travel warnings to include the risk of false allegations and extortion scams. Earlier this week, De Los Santos’ sentence was commuted, and she boarded a flight back to New York. Detained in Dubai stated that the 21-year-old was thrilled to return home after five months of anguish.
The State Department confirmed they were aware of her case and had been communicating with her and her family. ABC News reached out to Dubai authorities for comment but did not receive a response. De Los Santos’ case drew attention after her mother contacted Detained in Dubai, having learned about another US citizen’s similar ordeal in the UAE. Tierra Allen, a Texas resident, was charged for allegedly verbally accosting a rental car agent in Dubai but had her charges dropped and her travel ban lifted before returning to the US in August