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Sunday, 31 March, 2002, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Drugs charge air hostess is released
Katherine Jenkins has been acquitted of all charges
The mother of a Welsh woman cleared of cocaine possession in the United Arab Emirates has welcomed her daughter's release from jail on Easter Sunday.

Katherine Jenkins, 31, from Neath, had been held since October 2000 when police investigating a drug-smuggling gang found 50g of cocaine in her apartment in Dubai.

Katherine Jenkins
Katherine Jenkins is acquitted of all charges

She had always denied the possession allegation, claiming she found the cocaine in her apartment and hid it, believing it to belong to a co-defendant in her lengthy trial.

Her mother, Alvine, speaking from the family home in Neath said her daughter's acquittal on all charges was the best possible gift for the family.

She said: "We've had so many Sundays when nothing has happened but when it came it was just wonderful."

"It's the best possible gift we could have had on Easter Sunday."

Two British men facing drugs charges in the same trial were found guilty and sentenced to four years in jail.

Peter Hain MP
Neath MP and UK government minister Peter Hain has backed her case

Ms Jenkins gasped and looked relieved when the translator told her that the court in Dubai had acquitted her of all charges.

She had spent two birthdays in custody following her arrest and has already been acquitted of identical charges under Sharia or Islamic law in another emirate in the UAE.

Ms Jenkins hugged friends as she left chamber number four at Dubai court - the judge's words had been translated from Arabic into English: "The court has acquitted you".

However, she is unable to leave the Emirates for at least two weeks.

During that time the prosecution will decide whether it will appeal.

Graphic of Unite Arab Emirates

Stephen Jakobi, director of Fair Trials Abroad, which had criticised the UAE judicial process, said it was "terrific news" that Miss Jenkins had been acquitted.

He said: "Our reaction is one of enormous relief for Katherine and her family.

"Her family is obviously extremely excited and there is tremendous relief. They are over the moon.

"They are very excited about seeing Katherine and the understanding is that she will come home very quickly.

"She is in great shape, that we do know, and terribly happy. She is very much looking forward to being reunited with her family."

Mr Jakobi added that he hoped this case would push the authorities in the UAE to reassess their judicial system.

The two Britons jailed as Ms Jenkins was acquitted are Daniel Maalouf, who is 29, and from London, and a man from Manchester travelling on a false passport in the name of Stacy Simpson.

The court in Dubai where the trial was held
The court in Dubai where the trial was held

They were each sentenced to four years in prison, and deportation, for drug use and possession but have the right to appeal.

Ms Jenkins was on trial with two Britons as well as an Australian woman and another woman whose nationality is not known.

The former Emirates Airline stewardess denied being part of a drugs-smuggling gang, but admitted hiding the cocaine allegedly left in her apartment by the Australian woman.

Her second trial under civil law began in December but she was not able to give her version of events until three weeks ago, Sunday 10 March.

The trial had been delayed a number of times due to the non-attendance of prosecution witnesses - last month a police officer involved in her arrest did not appear in court because he was on holiday.

Humanitarian grounds

The strict Muslim country imposes harsh penalties for offences involving drugs, and two co-defendants in her earlier trial were handed sentences of life imprisonment.

Last month, an inquest in Neath in south Wales recorded a verdict of misadventure on Ms Jenkins' father who died of a heart attack after taking an overdose of aspirin last November.

The coroner Dr David Osbourne was told steelworker Vivian Jenkins, 53, had been deeply affected by the death of three colleagues in an unprecedented explosion at number five blast furnace at the Corus plant in Port Talbot.

Recording his verdict, Dr Osbourne said Mr Jenkins had also been subject to considerable worry due to his daughter's detention in the UAE.

"Absolute nightmare"

Katherine Jenkins was unable to return to Wales for her father's funeral.

Her case was taken up by Foreign Office Minister And Neath MP Peter Hain, who wrote to Dubai's leader, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid, urging him to free Ms Jenkins on humanitarian grounds.

Mr Hain said: "I have been in the case since the beginning and I'm absolutely thrilled for her and her family as they have gone through an absolute nightmare."

"During this nightmare her father has died in tragic circumstances and I can only praise her spirit and resilience.

"In all the contact we have had she has been more concerned about her fellow inmates than herself.

"I've always believed that she was an innocent caught up in this nightmare."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Katherine Jenkins from prison in Dubai
"It took too long but I was hoping for a good result - the truth was on my side."
Neath MP and Foreign Office Minister, Peter Hain
"Who knows how any of us would have reacted if we had panicked in such circumstances?"
See also:

10 Mar 02 | Wales
Stewardess's drugs trial ends
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