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New York Student Sentenced To A Year In Prison Finally Freed

Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos, 21, had her sentence commuted, according to an advocacy group.
Detained in Dubai called it a “welcome end” to the student’s “hellish” months-long detainment.
The New York City college student who was sentenced to a year in prison in Dubai over accusations of “assaulting and insulting” airport staff has been freed, according to an advocacy organization.

Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos, 21, boarded a plane back home to New York from Dubai late Tuesday after the college student had her sentence commuted, the group Detained in Dubai, which provides legal assistance to foreigners in the United Arab Emirates, said in a statement.

“The news that her sentence would be commuted was a welcome end to Elizabeth’s hellish 5 months in Dubai that left her humiliated, traumatized and out of pocket $50,000,” Detained in Dubai CEO Radha Stirling said in a press release on Tuesday.

Polanco De Los Santos was traveling home from Istanbul to New York with a friend in July and had a 10-hour layover at Dubai International Airport when she was accused of “assaulting and insulting” airport staff.

“Elizabeth was falsely accused of assaulting and insulting a customs official when she was stripped and humiliated upon entering the desert city during a transit stop,” Stirling said.

Detained in Dubai previously said that after Polanco De Los Santos was asked to remove a medical waist-training brace by female security officers at the airport, the officers refused to help her put it back on. She tried to call her friend for help, but one of the airport staffers was standing in her way.

That’s when Polanco De Los Santos says she “gently touched her arm to guide her out of the way then desperately started crying to my friend for help,” according to the advocacy group.

Stirling said in her Tuesday statement that her organization was “thankful” Polanco De Los Santos was freed but questioned, “Is that really a happy ending?”

“She has been left with the scars of an incomprehensibly traumatic experience for a young student, she has lost $50,000 that she will never be compensated for. Furthermore, she’s been convicted on the basis of mere allegations, sentenced to a year’s prison, fined and deported,” Stirling said. “That in itself is a disgrace.”

Stirling told Insider that the reason Polanco De Los Santos was ultimately released is unclear at this point.

But she said it was the result of pressure from the media, the US Embassy, and Congressman Ritchie Torres of New York.

Sentencing her to a year in prison was a “bad PR marketing” decision for the United Arab Emirates, which caved to international pressure, she said, adding: “In high-profile cases like this, they just want to quickly close the case as soon as possible.”

In WhatsApp messages shared with Insider by Detained in Dubai, Polanco De Los Santos confirmed that she was back in the US.

Landing at home was “like a dream,” she wrote.

The mass was divided in their thoughts when it came to her liberty. While some pitied her for having gone through with such a demeaning incident, the others condemned her for being an entitled brat.

That’s all we know for now, keep checking the website for more updates!

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