By Joshua Low
Earlier this year 23-year-old Perth musician Reuben de Melo was detained in Dubai International Airport while in transit from Amsterdam to India and accused of trying to smuggle cannabis into the country.
He says authorities believed the tea leaves he was carrying contained marijuana, with the possession of cannabis in any form being an offence in the United Arab Emirates with a minimum, mandatory sentence of four years.
He was led to believe by authorities that he was signing a form to be deported back to Australia.
“They made me sign a form in Arabic telling me I was being sent home.
“I only found out a few days later from another prisoner that it stated I had admitted to bringing marijuana into the country,” said Reuben.
He was moved to Dubai Central Jail while waiting for the tea leaves to be tested and for the case to be processed.
In the 40 days he spent waiting for his release, not knowing if or when he could leave, Reuben says music was what got him through the ordeal.
“We (the prisoners) would come together and sing, making harmonies and using random objects like water bottles as instruments.
“[It] was what helped me make friends with the other guys in there,” he said.
Reuben now hopes to share his experience and those of the others stuck there through his music.
“You hear a lot of stories of people and their struggles which inspired me, and that’s what I plan to share now with my music.
“For many of them their only crime is being poor, and their cases haven’t been resolved because their files have been lost and they don’t have anyone that cares about them.
“I hope I will reach out to these people by giving them a voice,” he said.