Man in lewd T-shirt loses court appeal

A Lebanese man faces a month in jail and deportation for wearing a cancer awareness T-shirt depicting a near-naked woman.

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DUBAI // A Lebanese man is facing one month in jail and deportation for wearing a cancer awareness T-shirt depicting a near-naked woman, after losing an appeal yesterday. In a brief hearing at Dubai Court of Appeals the judge upheld RN's sentence of 30 days in jail followed by deportation on a charge of offending public decency. The defendant was not present. Neither was his lawyer.

According to court records RN, 28, was stopped at a bakery in Dubai on Nov 29 by an Arab man who confronted him over his T-shirt, which showed a nearly nude Victoria Beckham partially covered by the slogan "Protect the Skin You're In". The shirts were produced by the designer Marc Jacobs for a cancer awareness campaign to aid research at New York University. Celebrities had posed almost nude for pictures that were printed on T-shirts and advertisements. The defendant was employed as a brand manager for Chalhoub Group, which holds the franchise for Marc Jacobs in the region.

An argument ensued between the two, after which RN left to change his shirt, according to court documents. Police were called and three charges were initially pressed against the defendant: drunkenness, fleeing the scene of a conflict and offending public decency. The first two charges have since been dropped. The defendant was detained for 48 hours, then released on bail. He submitted his passport to the police pending a judgment and was found guilty on April 19. He has been in prison since his first appeal hearing on June 11.

RN has lived in Dubai for the past five years, but grew up in France and Lebanon. "This T-shirt is a cancer awareness T-shirt, he's working for the brand and he's wearing the T-shirt of his brand," said a friend of several years who was present on the night of the incident, speaking on condition of anonymity. A Facebook group supporting the defendant that was started by his brother received more than 1,500 requests to join yesterday. The brother declined to comment directly on the case, but he said on Facebook that despite "serious guarantees" that his brother would get out of jail, the judge confirmed the sentence and banned him from the UAE for an unknown duration.

"I would like to thank all of you who showed support, proposed solutions and worked very hard to get him out," he said. The T-shirt was purchased by RN in New York last summer. Chalhoub Group declined to comment, but an employee said the T-shirts were not sold in the UAE. Since it began three years ago the "Protect the Skin You're In" campaign has raised more than US$1 million (Dh3.67m) for the NYU School of Medicine's Interdisciplinary Melanoma Co-operative Group.

Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy, a skin-cancer survivor and the president of Marc Jacobs International, persuaded celebrities including Winona Ryder, Naomi Campbell, Rufus Wainwright and Julianne Moore to pose nude for the campaign in 2006. Since then the supermodels Heidi Klum and Helena Christensen and former pop singer Ms Beckham have all joined the campaign. The defendant's friend said there should be more clarity about the rules of dress in Dubai.

"You can go to the beach and see people wearing very little," he said. "You can go to a mall or nightclub and see people dressed like that." The British government recently issued new travel advice for visitors to the UAE following a spate of high-profile cases of expatriates' falling foul of the UAE's rules on public behaviour. The defendant is entitled to lodge a final appeal within 30 days.