British and Syrian death sentence drug dealers insist they are innocent

Two men sentenced to death for drug dealing in Abu Dhabi insist they are innocent at the appeals court today, with one of them claiming he had been beaten by police.

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ABU DHABI // One of two men sentenced to death for selling Dh1,500 worth of marijuana to an undercover policemen told the appeals court yesterday that police forced him into setting up the deal by beating him.

The 19-year-old Syrian MB said he was arrested with another man, Sudanese FM, and that both were tortured by anti-narcotics officers who demanded they call the 21-year-old Briton NL to set up a drug deal. He said that when they did so, and the Briton arrived along with a fourth person, the 17-year-old Emirati GA, all four were arrested by police.

The Syrian and Briton were subsequently sentenced to death for their part in the deal, the Sudanese man was sentenced to a year in prison, while the Emirati, still a minor, was ordered to undergo rehabilitation.

The Syrian and the Briton are appealing, saying they are guilty of consuming hashish, but not of drug dealing. The Sudanese man, who was found guilty of consumption, is also appealing his sentence, though he admits taking hashish and Tramadol. The Emirati is not appealing his sentence.

The defence lawyer, Hadeya Al Hammadi, asked for a medical committee to examine the Syrian to assess his addiction.

The head of the court, Dr Khairi Al Kabbash, noted the request, but said: "Isn't it a bit early for the committee now? Let's deal with the [drug] dealing aspect first."

Defence lawyer Hassan Al Riyami also questioned the account of a police agent who arrested the Syrian and the Sudanese man, saying it was illogical.

The police agent claimed he had seen the two men sitting on a bench in the park and that he ran up to and arrested them before they could see him coming. However, Mr Al Riyami presented a photograph of the bench and said this showed it was too far from the park’s gate for the men not to have been able to see the police agent heading their way.

Another defence lawyer, Ahmed Al Othali, called for all prosecution witnesses, including an electronics expert, to testify at the appeal. Another defence lawyer Mohammed Al Azazi said this was necessary because “all the evidence that the conviction was based on were from electronic mobile messages and pictures”.

However, Dr Al Kabbash said there was no point in calling the expert unless there was a dispute over a technical detail.

"If you think the evidence was illegitimate then we should discuss that before bringing the expert in," he said.

Mr Al Azazi replied that there were strict guidelines over the use of electronic evidence in such a trial, and that the expert’s presence was therefore crucial.

"We also need an exact copy with colour of the case files and CD ... The ones we have are black and white and we can't see details," he added.

The public prosecutor then offered to make coloured copies of the case files in his office.

At the end of the hearing the lawyers asked for the men's mothers to be allowed to sit with them.

"Police, take the mothers to their sons and let them sit with them as long as they want, in a humanitarian way appropriate for Ramadan," ordered the judge.

The next hearing is scheduled for September 9.