June 26, 2012 Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk
A British man has been sentenced to death in Abu Dhabi after being caught selling cannabis worth just £250 to an undercover policeman.
The Briton was caught, along with a Syrian man, trying to sell 20 grammes of marijuana to a local police officer for 1,500 dirhams, Abu Dhabi criminal court was told. , Neither of the men has been named, but they were aged 21 and 19 respectively.
The men’s mothers were in court, according to local newspaper reports of the case, and the British mother broke down in tears as the death sentence was handed down.
Legal experts said however, that it was unlikely the sentence would be carried out – the only man to have gone before a firing squad in the United Arab Emirates in the last four years was a local man convicted of raping and murdering a four-year-old boy.
But the severity of the sentence for such a small amount of drugs brought new warnings about the risk of foreigners underestimating the risks of falling foul of the legal system in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
“We are very deeply saddened by today’s news reports,” said Radha Stirling, a lawyer who founded the group Detained in Dubai to help foreigners arrested in the UAE for a variety of offences from bouncing cheques to “indecency in public places”, all of which can carry jail terms
“Unfortunately, we are not surprised given the shocking developments regarding reports of police action and the state of the country’s judicial system over recent years.
“In response to this news in particularly, we call on national governments, including the UK, to finally take decisive action and properly warn their citizens about the real risks of visiting the UAE.” The two men were arrested along with a Sudanese man, who was sentenced to a year and deportation for consuming the drug, and a 17-year-old Emirati, who was sent for rehabilitation.
While the UAE is known to have strict laws covering many crimes, including drugs, the normal sentence for possession is one to four years, and for dealing small amounts of cannabis around seven years.
Dubai, which has a separate judicial system under the country’s federal structure, recently reacted to a wave of bad publicity by ordering those found with small amounts of drugs at the international airport to be deported immediately rather than jailed. On one occasion, a Briton was imprisoned after arriving with a poppy seed stuck to the bottom of his shoe.
In Abu Dhabi, the death sentence is more common for dealing drugs but in all recent cases has been overturned on appeal. Before being carried out, it has to be signed off by the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Khalifa al-Nahyan, who is also unlikely to risk damaging the country’s close relationship with Britain.
His brother, the Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed, met David Cameron, the prime minister, in London on Monday.
A British Embassy spokeswoman said. “We will remain in close contact with him and continue to provide the appropriate consular assistance.” A Syrian embassy spokesman said he could give no details.