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The BBC's Frank Gardner
"The Gulf states have zero tolerance for drug crimes"
 real 56k

Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 17:34 GMT 18:34 UK
Life for drug charge Britons
Dubai skyline
Drug charges are taken extremely seriously in the UAE
Two British women charged with drug trafficking in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been given life sentences.

Anne Kidd, 32, from Leeds, and Anna Bartlett, 22, from Southend, were sentenced to life in prison by the Sharia court in the northern emirate of Ras al Khaimah.

By regional standards this was a remarkably fair trial

Stephen Jakobi, Fair Trials Abroad

Daniel Maalouf, 28, from London, was sentenced to 10 years in jail, while Abdul Hamid Dandashi, a 25-year-old Lebanese man was given a four-year jail term for drug use.

Kidd's lawyer, Dr Ibrahim Al-Mulla, has already spoken of launching appeal against her sentence, although he has not revealed the grounds.

Bartlett's counsel has said he may do the same within the 15-day time limit.

Possible reductions

But he stressed that Islamic law can be humanitarian and while life sentences mean 25 years in jail, the women could get considerable reductions for good behaviour.

The cases against three other defendants - two Britons and an Australian - were transferred to Dubai, another one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE.

Dressed in long black gowns and headscarves, the two women stood sombrely as one of the three judges presiding over the case read the sentences in Arabic.

Kidd broke down in tears and Bartlett was visibly shocked.

After the verdicts, the women's lawyers said the pair were "relieved" to have escaped the death penalty, which may be given to drug traffickers under a 1995 Islamic law.

Right to appeal

All seven were arrested in November and charged with a variety of drug-related counts ranging from trafficking, dealing, possession and use.

Prisoners sentenced to life are typically paroled after 25 years.

Kidd was convicted of "using and distributing drugs" and Hamilton-Bartlett of "using, trafficking and importing drugs" into the emirates.

We cannot interfere in the judicial process

Foreign Office
Both were also ordered to pay 50,000 dirhams (10,000).

Maalouf was convicted of "intent to traffic" in drugs.

All three must now face additional drug-related charges at a trial in Dubai, with a trial date yet to be set.

The Foreign Office would not comment on individual cases, but a spokesman said: "All five of the Britons have the right of appeal. Whether they will exercise that right is a matter for them and their lawyers.

"We cannot interfere in the judicial process."

'Fair trial'

Stephen Jakobi, director of Fair Trials Abroad, said he believed the trial itself had been "remarkably fair".


The prosecution alleged the seven defendants were part of an international drugs trafficking gang dealing in cocaine and hashish in the UAE.

Three of the Britons were on tourist visas when they were arrested at a hotel in central Dubai.

Police say that Bartlett was found with packages of drugs in her hotel room.

She admitted smuggling drugs into the country, but denied having any intent to sell or use them.

She said they belonged to 28-year-old Stacy Simpson, from Leeds, who was arrested at the same time.

Mr Simpson and his girlfriend Kidd denied all charges against them.

Warning

The other four defendants were resident in the UAE at the time of their arrest.

Katherine Jenkins, 30, an airline stewardess living in Dubai, denies possession of cocaine.

But she has told the court she led police to where she had hidden more than 50g of the drug at her apartment block.

She told the judges she was frightened and suspicious when she found the drugs in her home and had assumed they belonged to the Australian defendant who had been visiting her.

Heidi Deboer, 24, from Queensland, denies the charges of possession and use against her.

Maalouf, a Londoner of Lebanese origin, admitted using hashish but denied possessing and selling hashish and cocaine.

Maalouf and Mr Simpson claimed they were beaten after their arrest but Major Ahmed Isa, of the anti-narcotics police, told the court the defendants were under no duress.

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See also:

17 Apr 01 | Middle East
Judges study drugs charges in secret
13 Mar 01 | Middle East
Drug charge Britons face death penalty
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