UPDATE: University of Florida engineering professor John Schueller, Ph.D., has returned home after being detained in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
In a written statement, Schueller said, “I had planned to be in Abu Dhabi for three days starting March 8th as one of 200 scientists from 70 countries for a United Nations-sponsored meeting on agriculture and food security. Unfortunately, it turned into a month-long stay.”
Schueller said he was arrested after inadvertently taking photographs of two embassies, which is forbidden. He was taken into custody, and his passport was confiscated.
“Fortunately, I was able to conduct some lectures and perform other UF professorship duties via the Internet when I was out on bail,” he wrote.
His trial was held on April 6, and he was able to return home on Wednesday.
After thanking his wife, UF English professor Malini Schueller, Ph.D., as well as his friends and colleagues, Schueller concluded, “I’m now putting this unpleasant event behind me and am concentrating on the many things that need to be done before the impending end of UF’s academic year.”
Original Post: University of Florida professor John Schueller, Ph.D., has been detained in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
During a conversation via Skype with WUFT on Tuesday, Schueller confirmed he was detained after taking photographs of buildings. In an email Wednesday, he declined to comment further.
A statement from the U.S. State Department, emailed to WUFT by a press officer on Wednesday, confirmed Schueller was arrested on March 9 and released the next day. According to the statement, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi is providing consular assistance.
According to a statement from Janine Sykes, assistant vice president of media relations and public affairs at UF, Schueller was in the U.A.E. to attend a conference. The university was made aware of the situation last week.
“As this matter concerns Dr. Schueller’s court process, we cannot comment further,” Sykes wrote.
Schueller’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 22, according to information from a State Department official provided in a separate email. The official did not comment on trial proceedings or the charges against Schueller.
According to an initial State Department statement, “a consular officer helped Mr. Schueller find temporary lodging at a hotel, where he is staying awaiting sentencing.”
However, in his email to WUFT, Schueller wrote, “I am not ‘awaiting sentencing.’ It is unknown how the case will proceed.”
WUFT contacted the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. Gulf Standard Time (12:30 a.m. EST), but officials had not yet responded at the time of publication. The U.A.E. Embassy in Washington was not aware of the situation as of Tuesday approximately 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, according to a representative.
The State Department would not speculate on when Schueller would be able to return home.
Olivia Perez-Cubas, press assistant for U.S. Senator from Florida Marco Rubio, wrote in an email to WUFT, “Our office doesn’t typically comment on constituent cases, but we are aware of the situation and have been in contact with both the State Department and Mr. Scheuller.”