DUBAI // Trying to sell 0.16 grams of methamphetamine has landed a 25-year-old waiter with a life sentence, in one of two court rulings yesterday that imposed lengthy prison terms for minute amounts of drugs. The Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced ASH, a Filipino, to life in jail and ordered him to pay a Dh50,000 (US$13,600) fine. He will be deported after serving his life term, which generally runs 25 years.
ASH was arrested while he was trying to sell the drug to a woman who was followed by police informants. The incident was video recorded. The woman, a 35-year-old clerk, received a one-year sentence for using drugs, to be followed by deportation. MM, a cleaner, received the same penalties in a separate case for attempting to sell 2.66 grams of the same drug. MM was arrested after he sold the drug to undercover police for Dh 1,000. He also confessed that he had sold the drug to SHT, a Filipino driver, who bought it for personal use. SHT was given a one-year jail sentence followed by deportation, for using drugs.
The verdict against ASH came as a shock to a public prosecutor who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to speak with the media. "That is hard to believe, that he was sentenced to life for that amount," he said. "The court has to find clear evidence that he was trafficking and not just in possession." The prosecutor added, however, that if he was trying to sell the drug, "it makes no difference if he was selling 0.1 gram or 100 grams". Shams al Deen, a legal expert and adviser based in Dubai, also expressed surprise at the sentence, describing the punishment as being too harsh considering the amount involved. "It is not a very common - This is a very nominal weight," he said. In extremely rare cases, an embassy can request that someone convicted of a crime in the Emirates be allowed to complete his sentence in his home country, Mr al Deen said. Once there, he can request a retrial.
"This is extremely rare, but it might be his only option," he said. He also advised the defendant to appeal against the sentence. The UAE has a zero tolerance policy on any type of drugs. The penalty for personal possession of an illicit substance could be as long as 10 years and those convicted of drug trafficking can be subject to life imprisonment and, in extreme cases, the death penalty. A judge can reduce the amount of a life term based on factors such as an inmate's health.
However, both the prosecutor and the experts said they could not recall a life sentence handed down for such a nominal amount. Past verdicts in Dubai court have also involved life terms for trafficking small amounts of narcotics. A woman received a life sentence in July for attempting to sell marijuana cigarettes for Dh500. firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com