Court may not hear testimony in Dubai indecency case

A court session to hear evidence in the case of two Britons charged with having sex on a public beach is cancelled.

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DUBAI // A court session to hear evidence in the case of two Britons charged with having drunken sex on a Dubai public beach was cancelled unexpectedly yesterday. According to court records, the Dubai Misdemeanours Court will now issue its verdict on Oct 16, apparently without hearing the evidence. The court had been due to hear testimony from the arresting officer, Ali Mohammed Yacoub. Mr Yacoub had failed to appear at a Sept 9 hearing, and no reason was given for the cancellation of yesterday's session.

The decision to announce the verdict on Oct 16, apparently without hearing Mr Yacoub's testimony, emerged in court records after the hearing was cancelled. Hassan Mattar, the lawyer for the defendants, Michelle Palmer, 36, and Vince Acors, 34, who had asked the court to summon Mr Yacoub for questioning, was not available for comment. The Britons are charged with having sexual relations out of wedlock, committing a scandalous public act and consuming alcohol in public. They were arrested early on July 5 after attending a champagne brunch the previous day and then going to the beach.

Mr Yacoub said in a statement to prosecutors that he was near a beach in Jumeirah close to the Burj al Arab hotel when two men stopped his patrol car and said a man and a woman were having sex on the beach. "I took a torch and went down to the beach and saw them," his statement read. The prosecutor, Faisal Ahli, declined to comment on the case and said all information had to come from Judge Hamad Abdullatif.

Mr Mattar has said he is ready to refute the allegation that his clients had engaged in sex on the beach. "The witnesses interviewed by the prosecution were too far away to be able to say for sure what they saw exactly. That, coupled with the findings of the medical report, will form the main thrust of our defence," Mr Mattar said in an earlier interview. He has denied that Mr Acors had admitted to having sex with Ms Palmer to the police or the prosecution.

DNA tests after their arrest showed no evidence of intercourse, he said. Prosecutors interviewed five witnesses, mostly passers-by who allegedly saw the couple on the beach committing the offences. A policeman was reported to have seen the pair frolicking on the beach and warned them, but when he returned a half-hour later they had ignored the warning, so he arrested them. Mr Mattar said the media spotlight had been devastating for Ms Palmer and particularly her sick mother. Ms Palmer was fired from her job with a Dubai-based publishing group after her arrest.

If convicted the two Britons could face jail terms or a fine, or both. Mr Acors, a sales director for a television company, was on a four-day business trip to the UAE when he was introduced to Ms Palmer.