Pubdate: Sat, 10 Sep 2016
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Joel OpHardt
Page: A4


Family told airport security in Persian Gulf nation found bag with
trace amounts of pot

A Hamilton mother is asking Canadians to put pressure on local MPs in
support of her daughter, a 27-year-old teacher imprisoned in the
United Arab Emirates.

"All I want is for her to be supported," said Joanne Augustyn, mother
of Heather Augustyn, who was imprisoned in the UAE on Aug. 26 after a
random search by airport security.

She was returning to teach elementary school at the Abu Dhabi
International Private School, where she had started working a year ago
after graduating from Western University.

Joanne said Heather was aware of what life was like in the UAE. "She
loved it … the students loved her, the parents loved her."

A lawyer informed Joanne that airport security found trace amounts of
marijuana - not enough for a more serious charge - in a bag that was
shared by Heather and her friends as they camped at a music festival
this summer. Joanne says her daughter was flustered when they were
late for her plane, and she grabbed that bag in a hurry.

According to the Government of Canada's travel advisory website, both
possession of small amounts of illegal substances and finding traces
of illegal substances in blood or urine can carry a minimum sentence
of four years. The family understands that the UAE have "their own
rules, and you have to respect their rules" when travelling, said Joanne.

Joanne says Global Affairs has been working with the family. They have
also sought out legal advice.

Kristine Racicot, spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, confirmed in
an email that a Canadian citizen had been detained in the UAE.
"Consular services are being provided to the Canadian citizen and her
family in Canada," Racicot wrote. "For privacy reasons, further
information cannot be released."

Heather is not being mistreated, her mother said. "She is in no danger
of being mistreated," she said. The family has been able to send
Heather money for a little store inside the prison. She gets enough
food - including meals with chicken and fish - and has been given a
radio, is exercising, and is able to call her mother frequently
throughout the week.

She sleeps on a mattress with a blanket in a room with other female
prisoners charged with petty crimes, she said.

"She is very positive, very strong," said Joanne, adding that she has
a friendly relationship with the other prisoners and her guards.

But that doesn't mean that Heather's mother isn't doing everything she
can to get her daughter out of prison. The possibility of conviction
and unpredictable sentencing length still loom overhead.

"We have to hope, when she goes to court eventually, that they like
her, that they want to help her."

If she is convicted, Joanne has been told that there is a possibility
her daughter would be pardoned at the next major holiday, but nothing
is guaranteed.

"We just want her out."
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