Human trafficking gang sentenced to life

Seven men are sentenced to life in prison in Abu Dhabi's largest known human-trafficking case.

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Seven men were sentenced today to life in prison and six other people were handed 10-year terms in Abu Dhabi's largest known human-trafficking case. The group of 12 Syrian men and one woman brought women from Morocco under the pretence of work, according to court documents. When they arrived in the capital, they were told they had been purchased from a recruiter in Morocco. The women were then locked into several flats on the island, beaten and starved. They were told they would have to work as prostitutes to pay back the thousands of dirhams it cost to bring them here. The girls, some as young as 19, were chauffeured to clients in hotels and homes under the guard of their handlers. It was not until October 28, when one of the women escaped a villa in Al Bateen where they were being held, that their story reached the police. Through the help of a stranger, she was taken to the police in Ras Al Khaimah. A few days later, Abu Dhabi police raided three flats in Al Bateen and the Tourist Club area, arresting 12 men and one woman. As many as 18 women who were locked inside the flats were rescued after the police broke down the doors, according to court documents. One man, considered by prosecutors to be the kingpin of the operation, escaped to Syria as soon as he learnt of the arrests. He was sentenced to life in prison in absentia. An international warrant for his arrest is expected to be filed with Interpol. An Ethiopian woman who was working as a maid in one of the flats was sentenced to two months after she was found to be in the country illegally and working without a sponsor. Attorneys for those charged strongly spoke out against the sentencing, saying it was too harsh. They have 15 days to appeal. myoussef@thenational.ae

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