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Britons sentenced to life in UAE on drug charges

Britons sentenced to life in UAE on drug charges

A United Arab Emirates court sentenced two British women on Sunday to life in prison on drug-related charges.

A 28-year-old British man, Daniel Maalouf, was given 10-year jail sentence for "intending to traffic drugs".

The women, identified as 32-year-old Anna Kidd and 22-year-old Anna Bartlett, were also fined 50,000 dirhams each ($13,623) by the Islamic sharia court in the northern emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, where they were standing trial alongside two other Britons and one Australian.

Kidd had been charged with use and intention to distribute drugs while Bartlett had been charged with possession, use, importation and trafficking.

A life term in UAE sharia courts is equivalent to 25 years in jail. Lawyer Mohammed al-Kamali, representing the two women and man, said he would appeal against the sentences within 15 days.

"They are lucky they did not get the death penalty," he told Reuters after the trial. "If they show good behaviour and perform community service, they could only get 10 years."

Kamali said Bartlett and Kidd were found with capsules of pure cocaine, hidden inside their bodies, while in detention.

BRITAIN SAYS HAD WARNED OF TOUGH UAE DRUG LAWSIn London, Britain's Foreign Office said it had warned its citizens of tough UAE drug laws in travel advisories.

"Sharia and federal law in the United Arab Emirates does stipulate harsh sentences for drugs offences and we highlight this in travel advice," a Foreign Office spokesman said.

He said the defendants would continue to receive consular assistance and that officials would keep in touch with their families and lawyers.

Wearing face veils and head-to-toe black gowns, the four women huddled together as the judges delivered the verdict to a courtroom that included some family members.

After the sentences were read first in Arabic, and then by a translator, Kidd started crying and reached for her boyfriend and fellow accused Stacy Simpson, witnesses said.

In earlier media reports, Simpson was identified as a woman.

The judge declared that the court could not prove charges against three of the accused - Simpson, a 28-year-old from Leeds, Katherine Jenkins, 30, from North Wales and Australian Heidi Deboer, a 28-year-old from Queensland.

ALL SIX TO STAND TRIAL AGAIN

Kamali said the three would now face trial in the neighbouring emirate of Dubai, along with the other three who were charged in Ras al-Khaimah. It was not immediately clear when the new trial would start.

All six were arrested in October and November in Ras al-Khaimah and Dubai. They were charged with possession and use of narcotics and smuggling hashish and cocaine to the UAE, where drug trafficking carries a possible death sentence.

Of the six, only Maalouf and Bartlett have admitted to some of the charges, while the rest have pleaded innocent.

Maalouf, from London, has admitted to using hashish, while Bartlett, from Southend-on-Sea, has confessed to bringing in cocaine and hashish.

British and Australian diplomats declined to comment on the verdict and relatives refused to speak to reporters.

In March, the Ras al-Khaimah court sentenced a Lebanese man to 10 years in jail in the same case and local newspapers have said his arrest led police to the six Westerners.

Another Briton, Steven James, is also on trial for similar charges in Dubai. He was arrested in November on suspicion of smuggling cocaine and trying to sell 150 grams (5.3 ounces) of the drug. Michel Kalifa, a Frenchman of Lebanese origin, is also being prosecuted in the case.


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