Four students jailed for blackmailing teenage girl win appeal

The Pakistanis were accused of threatening to post private pictures of the 17-year-old girl unless she stole money and jewellery from her mother but they won the appeal and will now walk free.

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DUBAI // Four students who were jailed for blackmailing a teenager and forcing her to steal money and jewellery from her mother have had their sentences overturned.

Pakistanis M H, 19, M A H, 20, M R, 18, and A H, 22, had all been found guilty in January of issuing threats, blackmail and physical and were each sentenced to one year in jail by Dubai Criminal Court.

On Sunday, however, they were acquitted by the Dubai Court of Appeal.

Prosecutors had said they threatened to post private pictures of their compatriot, R L, on Facebook if she did not pay them and pushed the girl to steal Dh14,000 jewellery from her mother. When R L said she could no longer pay, she claimed they assaulted her.

She said she had been friends with M H since March 2014.

On one occasion, M H asked to use her phone. “I didn’t know he forwarded some of my private pictures from my device to his through WhatsApp,” said R L. “Soon after, M H asked me for money. I told him I didn’t have much so he threatened me, saying he forwarded pictures from my phone and that he would post them on Facebook if I didn’t pay him. He even showed me the pictures.”

She claimed that M H and his three friends posted private pictures of her friend as a threat, after which the teenager began stealing from her mother’s purse. She said the four of them sent her threatening text messages.

In January last year, R L said she stopped paying them and told them she would use the threatening text messages against them if they did not stop.

Prosecutors said M H met R L and deleted all the messages from the girl’s phone. He then showed her a video clip of him and his friends assaulting a man and told her: “If you don’t pay, this will happen to you”.

On March 26 last year, R L said she paid M H, M A H, M R and AH Dh8,000 and stole some of her mother’s jewellery. When she no longer had cash or jewellery to give, she said M H, M A H, M R and A H assaulted her near her school.

No reason for the acquittal was given.