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Tuesday, 17 April, 2001, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Judges study drugs charges in secret
Dubai skyline
Drug charges are taken extremely seriously in the UAE
By Julia Wheeler in Dubai

The case of the five Britons alleged to be part of a drug smuggling ring in the United Arab Emirates has moved to be heard in private.

On Sunday, the defence handed the Islamic court its written arguments, which will now be discussed with defence lawyers in the privacy of the judges' chambers.

Katherine Jenkins, 30, from Cimla, Neath, south Wales, has denied possessing cocaine, but she has admitted hiding the drug which she claimed she found in her bedroom.

Katherine Jenkins
Katherine Jenkins is charged with possessing cocaine
The defence of the other defendants - four other Britons, one Australian and one Lebanese - in the Ras al-Khaimah Sharia court is believed to centre partly on what their lawyers outline as the "physical impossibility" of events described by the police.

They say the sequence of events leading up to at least one of the arrests - including completing the legal formalities and driving an hour-and-a-half south to Dubai where that arrest took place - would not have been possible in the timeframe the police have detailed.

Private questions

The case began and is therefore being tried in the northern emirate of Ras al Khaimah.

The three judges - one Egyptian and two Saudis - have now received detailed written statements from the defence.


They are to question defence lawyers in private rather than in open court, as had been expected.

Journalists have been banned from the courtroom at the particular request of the family of the Australian defendant, 24-year-old Heidi De Boer.

Her father is a pilot in Dubai and has become increasingly concerned about adverse publicity.

Ms De Boer denies charges of drug use and possession with intent to sell. If convicted, she could face the death penalty.

Defendant in hospital

Meanwhile, 22-year-old Anna Bartlett from Essex, in eastern England, was not in court on Sunday because she is in hospital for medical treatment at her own request.

Ms Bartlett has admitted smuggling drugs into the UAE but, at an earlier hearing, told the court they belonged to her co-defendant, 28-year-old Stacey Simpson from Leeds in northern England.

He denies all allegations against him.

All drugs-related offences are taken very seriously in the UAE and under federal law a conviction for drugs trafficking can carry the death penalty.

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13 Mar 01 | Middle East
Drug charge Britons face death penalty
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