Defense Opens in UAE Drugs Trial of Britons, Australian
The defense opened its case Sunday in the trial of five young Britons and an Australian arrested on drugs offences in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), court sources said.
In a procedural hearing during which the defendants were not questioned, lawyers submitted papers to the judge, who adjourned the hearing for a private meeting with the defense to be followed by a session with the prosecutor.
A date was to be set later for the next hearing.
The judge has kept journalists out of the Islamic court in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah since the prosecution submitted closing arguments on April 3, whereas the press had previously been allowed to attend.
The defendants, including four women, have however been granted consular access, and the court has allowed diplomats to attend the hearings.
The suspects in their 20s and 30s, who were arrested in Ras al-Khaimah and Dubai between late October and early November, have pleaded not guilty on most charges, which cover smuggling, possession, trafficking and use of drugs.
Prosecutors last month appealed a life term handed down to Lebanese national Gilbert Pilal for drug smuggling, calling on the Ras al-Khaimah court to impose the death penalty.
Pilal was caught in a police sting and six more suspects have been arrested: Britons Anne Kidd, Anna Bartlett, Katherine Jenkins, Stacy Simpson and Daniel Maalouf, and Australian Heidi Dabour.
The trafficking charge carries the death sentence in the UAE, of which Ras al-Khaimah and Dubai are both members.
Several foreigners have been sentenced to death under a 1995 law that lays down capital punishment for drug trafficking. But no executions -- normally by firing squad in the UAE -- have been announced for narcotics crimes.
Death sentences are often commuted to life in prison, which in the Emirates is a 15-year term -- DUBAI (AFP)