This Canadian Woman Was Jailed In Abu Dhabi Over Trace Amounts Of Weed In Her Bag

    Heather Augustyn, 27, was arrested in late August.

    A Canadian woman's family says she was jailed in Abu Dhabi after authorities found marijuana in her bag at the airport and forced her to sign a statement in Arabic she didn't understand.


    Heather Augustyn was returning to the United Arab Emirates to resume teaching at an Abu Dhabi private school when she was stopped by security.

    Guards searched her bags and found a small amount of marijuana, no more than some "loose flakes," in her backpack, Augustyn's mother Joanne told BuzzFeed News.

    The 27-year-old teacher was arrested and eventually ended up at Al Wathba Prison, a facility notorious for its harsh conditions and overcrowding.

    Joanne Augustyn also said her daughter was asked to sign a statement in Arabic that detailed her actions, and that she was not provided a translator. When she refused to sign the document, "the policewoman put the pen in her hand and pretty much made her sign it."

    The United Arab Emirates has very strict drug laws, and even a trace amount of weed can result in a minimum four-year sentence.


    Canada's foreign affairs department says it's aware that "a Canadian national has been detained" in the country.

    "Consular services are being provided to a Canadian citizen and her family in Canada," Michael O’Shaughnessy, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, told BuzzFeed News.

    Due to privacy laws, O’Shaughnessy said he could not provide any more information or confirm the identity of the Canadian being detained.

    Augustyn has been teaching a Grade 3 class at the Abu Dhabi International Private School. This would have been her second year teaching the class, and "the kids absolutely love her," her mother said.


    Augustyn, who flew back to UAE in late August for the start of the school year, has now been detained for almost two weeks. Joanne Augustyn said her daughter is holding up well but despair is starting to creep in, especially after another woman at the prison attempted suicide.

    She said she just wants her daughter to leave jail, whether that means a return to her teaching post or getting deported from the country.


    This post was updated with more information following an interview with Joanne Augustyn.

    Ishmael N. Daro is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto. PGP fingerprint: 5A1D 9099 3497 DA4B

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