Facebook "like" (illustration)
Facebook "like" (illustration)Flash 90

An American employed by a company in the United Arab Emirates has been arrested in that country – for griping on Facebook about his job. The man is being charged with “slandering his employer,” a crime in the UAE.

The incident began in December, when Ryan Pate, a helicopter mechanic from Florida, returned home for the winter holidays. Pate spent time with his girlfriend, who was being treated for back injuries, and he sought to extend his leave in order to help her. He contacted his employers, who demanded he return on time.

Pate then posted on Facebook, complaining about the situation, and he returned to work. Several days after his return, he got a phone call requesting that he come down to the police station – where he was promptly arrested and charged.

Speaking to an Associated Press reporter, Pate said that he “just couldn't register it in my head because as an American growing up in the United States, the First Amendment right is just ingrained in my brain. I never even entertained the fact that I would wind up in prison out here for something I put on Facebook in the United States.”

Rep. David Jolly, who represents Pate's district, has sought to intervene with State Department and UAE authorities. State Department officials said that they were trying to solve the issue. Pate is currently out on bail, but he is not allowed to leave the UAE. He goes on trial later this month.