Interpol threat to UK rape-claim couple

The pair are due to appear in court, but have vowed "never" to return to Dubai.

DUBAI // A British couple charged with illegally drinking alcohol after the wife filed a rape claim may face an Interpol warrant should they fail to appear before a Dubai court next week. The couple, who are already back in Britain and have said they will "never" return to the emirate, were charged with illegal alcohol consumption and having sex out of wedlock after the wife, identified as SP, 23, reported that she was raped at the Address Hotel, in Dubai Marina, on New Year's Eve.

Prosecutors dismissed the charge of having sex out of wedlock after the couple produced a marriage certificate. They also dismissed a rape charge against an Indian hotel worker, saying an investigation had proved the incident did not occur. The couple have been ordered to appear before the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours next Wednesday to answer the illegal alcohol consumption charge, which is punishable by up to three months in jail or a fine of up to Dh5,000 (US$1,360), or both.

By law, they have to enter their pleas in person. The misdemeanours court issues its judgments on the same day. The couple flew back to Britain immediately after their passports were returned to them on February 1. Each has posted a Dh5,000 bond. Both had surrendered their passports when granted bail after two days spent in jail. They landed back in the UK the next day and told the British press they would "never return to Dubai". But they might have to; the couple could find themselves wanted by Interpol.

If the couple failed to appear before the court and were sentenced to a prison term, police could issue a new order for their arrest. "If the person is believed to be outside the country, his location will be investigated and steps will be taken to return him in order to face his prosecution or serve his sentence," said Shoaib Ahly, a public prosecutor. If they are outside the country, the police could issue an Interpol red notice, a local warrant circulated worldwide with the request that the suspects be arrested with a view to extradition.

Finally, police could ask Britain to extradite the couple under a treaty signed in 2008. So far, only one person has been extradited under the treaty - Jalil Ahmed, a Briton accused of stabbing a man to death in Birmingham, who was sent back to the UK in August for trial. "If they are sentenced in absentia and receive a fine, it could be paid off by any one for them and their bond will be confiscated, they then would have served their sentence and not [be] wanted by law enforcement authorities," said Yousif Hammad, a managing partner at the Hammad & Associates legal consultancy.

"However if they are issued with jail time, they would have to serve their sentence," he said. "If not, they would be considered absconding." According to The Sun newspaper in Britain, the couple have separated since returning home.