Drug addict freed to seek help

A Sharjah court dismisses criminal charges against a drug addict in the hope of encouraging others to seek help in breaking their addiction.

SHARJAH // A Sharjah court yesterday dismissed criminal charges against a drug addict in the hope of encouraging others to seek help in breaking their addiction. Prosecutors acquitted the Emirati, M M, who had gone to a rehabilitation centre seeking treatment for morphine addiction. They asked the police to release him to receive treatment.

"If criminal charges are put upon him today, not a single other addict would come up to seek rehabilitation assistance," Judge Yaqoub al Hamadi said. "We are trying to encourage drug addicts as much as we can to seek rehabilitation and reintegrate into society as drug-free people." He added that the Federal Anti-Narcotics Law No 43 forbade imprisoning drug addicts who turned themselves in for rehabilitation.

Federal law states that if drug addicts turn themselves in, they will not be jailed. Instead, addicts are treated for between a month and six months, until all toxins are taken from the body. They then receive psychological and physical rehabilitation treatment from a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and nurses. After rehabilitation is complete, the addict remains under surveillance for two years to ensure they do not return to drug abuse.

Anyone, whether expatriate or Emirati, can turn themselves in, according to Dr Ahmed Abdulzaher, a legal consultant for the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department. But the authorities have the legal right to order deportation for non-nationals.  M M admitted himself to a rehab clinic in Sharjah in May this year. Physicians at the centre conducted a series of tests which found he had drugs in his system. The morphine, a potent opiate, had severely damaged his health and brain, according to a police report handed to prosecutors.

The rehab centre turned the patient over to police and he confessed he had been taking drugs but was seeking help to start a new life. The police referred him to the public prosecution and, as the case proceeded, he remained in police custody. Officials from the rehab clinic declined to comment on the case. This is the first acquittal of its kind by authorities in Sharjah, an emirate known for its hard line on drug-related cases.

A spokesman for Sharjah Police said: "We are taking all the right procedures to have the prosecutors decision implemented. We are also looking forward to helping other drug addicts who turn themselves in." The spokesman, however, would not guarantee that those who came forward would not face arrest. "Every case has its uniqueness, but we are willing to help," he said. At an event held on International Anti-Narcotics Day in June, Brig Humaid Mohammed al Hudaidi, the director general of Sharjah Police, said there were 17 drug-related deaths in the emirate last year, with 16 of the victims Emirati.

"We have to break the culture of silence about drugs and tell our children the truth about drugs," he said. "The sons of this country should know that drugs kill, drugs waste one's life." Brig al Hudaidi said heroin was the most problematic for young Emiratis, with 11 of the 16 Emirati deaths attributed to the drug. On August 10, an Emirati, also M M man charged with drug abuse told the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance that when he was arrested by police he was waiting for a place in a rehabilitation centre. He said he left the hospital on July 7 when officials told him he needed to wait "three to four days".

M M, who pleaded not guilty, said traces of drugs found in his bloodstream came from use before he went to a hospital in Al Ain to be treated for heroin addiction. @Email:ykakande@thenational.ae * with additional reporting by Hassan Hassan