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Dubai deports Ukrainians, Russian for naked balcony photoshoot

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In Oct. 5, 2015 file photo, a thick blanket of early morning fog partially shrouds the skyscrapers of the Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers districts of Dubai.
In Oct. 5, 2015 file photo, a thick blanket of early morning fog partially shrouds the skyscrapers of the Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers districts of Dubai.   -   Copyright  Kamran Jebreili/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Eleven Ukrainian women who took part in a naked photoshoot on a high-rise balcony in Dubai will be deported, authorities said Tuesday, along with the Russian photographer.

After pictures and videos of the women went viral in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai authorities have charged the 12 with public debauchery and producing pornography.

Dubai’s Attorney General Essam Issa al-Humaidan announced that those behind the photoshoot would be sent back to their countries. Dubai police have declined to identify those detained.

Ukrainian and Russian authorities confirmed the arrest of their citizens Tuesday, but the nationalities of the others detained were not immediately known.

It is unusual for foreigners charged with crimes in the Gulf sheikhdom to be deported before facing trial and serving time in prison. Dubai has strict laws based on Shariah - or Islamic - law, including on public decency and a number of foreigners have been deported in the past for flouting them.

“The public prosecutor ordered the deportation of the accused for their behaviour contrary to public morals,” al-Humaidan said.

Dubai is a top destination for the world’s Instagram influencers and models, who fill their social media feeds with slick bikini-clad selfies from the coastal emirate’s luxury hotels and artificial islands.

But the city’s brand as a glitzy foreign tourist destination has at times provoked controversy and collided with the sheikhdom’s strict rules governing public behavior and expression.

The scandal came just days before Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, and as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky landed in nearby Doha, Qatar, for an official state visit.

Ramadan

Over the years, Dubai increasingly has promoted itself as a popular destination for Russians on holiday. Signs in Cyrillic are a common sight at the city’s major malls.

The generally pro-Kremlin tabloid Life identified the Russian man arrested as the head of an information technology firm in Russia’s Ivanovo region, though his firm denied he had anything to do with the photoshoot.

The Associated Press was not able to determine if those arrested had legal representation or reach a lawyer for them.

Stanislav Voskresensky, the governor of Ivanovo, asked the Russian Foreign Ministry and Russia’s ambassador to the UAE to offer the Russian man their support.

“We don’t abandon our own,” Voskresensky wrote on social media.

Although the UAE has recently made legal changes to attract foreign tourists and investors, allowing unmarried couples to share hotel rooms and residents to drink alcohol without a license, the Gulf Arab country’s justice system retains harsh penalties for violations of the public decency law.

Nudity and other “lewd behavior,” carry penalties of up to six months in prison and a fine of 5,000 dirhams ($1,360). The sharing of pornographic material is also punishable with prison time and hefty fines.

Foreigners, who make up some 90% of the UAE’s population of over 9 million, have been imprisoned for comments and videos online, as well as for offenses considered benign in the West, like kissing in public.