Man Arrested for Using Cell Phone in Security at Abu Dhabi Airport

A Plano family is desperate for information this Thanksgiving after their father was arrested thousands of miles from home.

Joseph Lee's children say he was arrested at an airport in Abu Dhabi for one reason: he used his cell phone while going through security.

They say they haven't heard from him since.

“I believe he began recording because they were treating him unfairly, in a rude manner, and in Abu Dhabi that's a pretty big criminal offense and I believe that's why he was detained,” his son Jonathan Lee said.

Lee was with his father at the airport.

They were wrapping up a father, son trip to Bangkok, Thailand.

The Lees were on the last leg of their return home. They had an 11-hour layover in Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan says they took a quick tour of the city and when they returned to airport, Joseph was randomly selected for a secondary security screening.

They were separated and minutes later, Jonathan says he received a phone call from Joseph telling him he was under arrest.

Jonathan says his father expected to be released momentarily so he boarded a plane and returned home.

Neither he nor his sister, Elaine Strathern, have heard from him since.

“It’s awful, absolutely awful. We just want my dad back,” Jonathan said.

“We just want our father back. He's a very good man,” Strathern said.

The family planned to spend Thanksgiving together at Elaine's Plano home.

Celebrating, now, is the last thing on their minds with their 59-year-old father stranded overseas.

“We just want to let the UAE government to know that there is no ill intent of my father and that we just want him back home. We want him back home safe and sound,” Jonathan said tearfully.

The Lee family has created an online petition to bring awareness to their story. As of Thursday, it had been signed by nearly 500 people.

NBC 5 contacted the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi. A representative said they are looking into the matter.

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