A former teacher at the Duchess of Cambridge’s old public school has been jailed in the United Arab Emirates for sending ‘an electronic insult’ on social media.
Christian Wilke, 39, former Head of Computing and ICT at Downe House School in Cold Ash, Berkshire, was arrested while working as a teacher for a junior high school in Abu Dhabi.
His mother claims he is being kept in filthy conditions in prison in the UAE, was forced to sign a false confession and has still not been told what he did to trigger his arrest.
“He got a lawyer for the first time after 52 days and his entire trial was conducted in Arabic,” said his mother Christine Wilke-Breitsameter.
“As we now know he was sentenced to one-year imprisonment and the equivalent of 12,500 euros in punishment for an ‘electronic insult’. That can be anything. A five-year-old Facebook post which the government classifies as critical. A harmless joke. Like a post that does not suit the government.”
Since arriving in the UAE, Wilke has been active on the Internet and social media, supporting the decision by the authorities to jail a man who insulted the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He told lovindubai.com: "Am Christian and I feel exactly like the people who locked this guy away. I wished the same happened in the West. Our belief is essential and it needs to be protected."
But his mother says she does not know what the electronic message he posted was that landed him in trouble.
Wilke, who has dual British and German nationality, worked in England as an IT teacher at various schools, including Downe House until 15 months ago, and was Head of ICT/Computing at The Royal School, Wolverhampton, whose patron is Prince Edward.
He also worked at St Bede’s Catholic School and Sixth Form College during his teacher training.
On his social media page, Wilke recalls his time at Downe House up to August 2016, saying: “As Head of Department and as a teaching practitioner, I am facilitating a 'change of culture' in a digital media and technologies context, stretching young minds in ICT and I am gradually introducing Computing to a setting with all girls.”
At the same time he was studying for a PhD in Education, Digital Media at Bournemouth University.
As a 14-year-old, Kate Middleton reportedly withdrew from the independent girls' school Downe House after just two terms, because of alleged bullying. Wilke’s mother said her son moved to the UAE after Brexit was announced to work as a teacher for junior high school at Brighton College in Al Ain.
His social media accounts show that he was Director of Educational Technology at the college. He was arrested in October 2017.
His mother Wilke-Breitsameter, who lives in Germany, added: “On the 25th of December, we were sitting together as a family when the phone rang. It was Christian. He was completely desperate. He told me he was detained under terrible conditions.
"I did not do anything," he kept telling me. He cried and begged me to help him.
“The conditions in Al Ain are cruel. He’s barely being fed and has lost 18 kilos of weight. There are rats running around and cockroaches in the food. Being there he developed pneumonia and was denied adequate medical care.
“I am so afraid for my son. I'm afraid he will not get through this.”
Wilke-Breitsameter has now launched a petition on the platform "Change.org" , in which she called on the German Federal Government and the Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to help free her son. Some 35,000 people have signed up so far.
Details of Wilke’s detention puts further pressure on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for its record of alleged human rights abuses. The International Campaign for Freedom said: "In recent years, the UAE’s judicial system has drawn heavy criticism from rights groups such as Amnesty International for violating basic human rights of both Emirati and non-Emirati citizens and acting in a manner that contravenes international law.
"Since the institution of the cyber-crime law in 2012, scores of people in the UAE have been detained by authorities for comments made on social media platforms."