Canadians cautioned about UAE law on drugs

DUBAI — In the wake of UN anti-narcotics official and Canadian citizen Bert Tatham’s release from a Dubai prison, the Canadian Foreign Affairs and International Trade department, on its web site, has categorically stated that possession, use, and trafficking of illegal drugs including poppy seeds in the UAE could warrant strict penalty.

By Zoe Sinclair And Preeti Kannan (Our staff reporter)

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Published: Sun 23 Dec 2007, 8:43 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:20 AM

Asking its citizens to “exercise high degree of caution” while travelling to the UAE, the travel report on the web site states, “Criminal penalties for possession, use, and trafficking of illegal drugs, as well as poppy seeds, are strict and include death penalty. Convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and/or heavy fines. The possession of drugs, even a very small amount, can result in arrest and, if convicted, a minimum four-year prison term.”

It has also said that using drugs is deemed illegal by the authorities, even if used while outside of the UAE, can be punishable by law if traces of the substance are found in the blood or urine, and can also carry a minimum prison term of four years.

“Prescription or over-the-counter drugs that are legal in Canada (e.g. codeine) may be restricted in the UAE. Possession of such drugs could lead to a jail sentence. Keep the original prescription and the original container, while the medication is being taken, but also after it is ceased to be taken as traces could still be detectable in the system. For more information, see the web site of the Ministry of Health of the UAE, specifically the List of Restricted and Controlled Drugs,” the web site says.

A media officer from the Canadian Foreign Affairs and International Trade department in Ottawa told Khaleej Times that their web site was constantly reviewed depending on the circumstances.

Tatham, 35, UN anti-narcotics official, had been working on poppy eradication projects in Afghanistan when he travelled through Dubai and was found with two poppy flowers in his luggage, 0.6 grams of hashish in his pants and traces of drugs in his urine.

He was sentenced on June 19 to four years in jail but was one of 377 prisoners granted amnesty by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, ahead of Eid Al Adha last weekend.

Bert Tatham conceded that it was his own negligence that led him to carry the poppy seeds for the purpose of education.

The parents, Charlie and Louise Tatham, had earlier campaigned for their son’s release. “We read the list (of pardoned inmates) issued and were desperate to find out if his name was on it,” Charlie said over phone.

Last Monday, Charlie said they were urgently contacted by consular officials to organise a plane ticket within 20 minutes for Bert’s release. “We were deliriously happy,” he said.

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