Dan Nancarrow, Brisbane Times, June 7, 2011
A Brisbane woman [was] jailed for adultery in Dubai after she complained of being drugged and raped by co-workers has been granted leave to sue the Australian government over her ordeal.
Alicia Gali’s lawyer Michelle James, a principal at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, said Australian embassy staff failed to warn the 29-year-old that a complaint of rape in the United Arab Emirates could lead to her being jailed.
Ms Gali was charged with adultery and sentenced to 11 months in prison, serving eight, after bringing the incident to the attention of police in 2008.
Her request to sue the Commonwealth was scheduled to be heard in the Brisbane Supreme Court this morning, but it emerged today the Australian government had yesterday consented to Ms Gali’s lawyers being granted leave to file proceedings.
She has also been granted leave to sue her former employer, Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, in Queensland’s Supreme Court, alleging the resort breached its workplace obligations by failing to have systems in place to protect workers against assault.
Today, Ms James told a media conference the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had failed in its obligations to Ms Gali, directly leading to her being jailed.
“She should have been told, as a bare minimum, of the local laws that apply in the UAE,” Ms James said.
“In the UAE, rape is not a crime unless it is witnessed by four adult male Muslim witnesses.
“Alicia wasn’t told this. She certainly wasn’t told that if she reported the brutal rape to the police that she ran the risk of being jailed for 12 months.
“Alicia was merely told that she should ‘reconsider her need to be in the country’ at that time.”
Ms James said DFAT information read by Ms Gali before she left for Dubai provided no warning of the consequences of reporting a sexual assault.
She said Ms Gali was trying to rebuild her life but the trauma of her overseas ordeal was long-lasting.
“We think those effects will be with her for a lifetime,” Ms James said.