Footballer sentenced to three years



DUBAI// An Emirati footballer has had his three-year prison sentence upheld for possessing an unlicensed firearm and firing it in public. He was sentenced in his absence yesterday by the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance. The 26-year-old, SA, was jailed for three years for the offence last August but his lawyer, Eisa bin Haidar, asked for a retrial, arguing that the defendant had not been afforded the opportunity to defend himself adequately.

The earlier verdict was passed on Aug 17 after SA, who plays for a Dubai-based club, failed to turn up for the first hearing on Aug 3. He was charged with threatening to shoot another Emirati, AJ, 35, unless he knelt on the ground and kissed the feet of his companion. The prosecution said that SA also fired a shot from an unlicensed 9mm Ruger P85 into the air, endangering the lives of his victim and other passers-by.

The incident took place in the car park of a hotel in Jumeirah in the early hours of March 19 last year. In his testimony to prosecutors AJ said he heard the defendant arguing loudly with his male companion, identified only as Adel, as he was leaving the bar at the hotel just after 3am. AJ said he went to see what was going on and try to calm them down, but was stunned when the defendant told him: "Leave or I will slap your face!" AJ walked away but later returned and asked the footballer why he had said what he did.

SA replied: "I will slap you and 10 men like you." The verbal exchange led to pushing and shoving and one of the hotel security staff had to pull the men apart. Adel then intervened, and he and AJ approached SA, who was walking towards his car. Suddenly, SA turned around and took a pistol from his pocket, pointing it at AJ, the prosecution said. The prosecution said SA then fired a shot into the air and told AJ to get down on the ground or he would shoot him.

As AJ was getting down on to the road SA kicked him in the chest and ran off. But Mr bin Haidar argued in court that on the night in question the defendant was wearing very tight trousers with small pockets so hiding a pistol on his person would have been impossible. hbathish@thenational.ae

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