Crime and Courts

UAE’s top court quashes death penalty for drug dealers; fresh trial ordered

Ismail Sebugwaawo /Abu Dhabi Filed on November 4, 2020


Two men convicted of dealing heroin have had their death sentences overturned by the UAE’s top court. The UAE Supreme Court ordered that the appellate court hold a fresh hearing in the case. The Briton and Pakistani were earlier found guilty of possessing and selling drugs.

Court documents stated that the 54-year-old British mechanic was arrested red-handed in March 2018 while selling 2kg of heroin worth $30,000 (Dh110,000) to an undercover policeman. The undercover officer from the Dubai Police had posed as a customer and bought a few grammes of the drug to confirm it was heroin.

During interrogation, the Briton had reportedly confessed to selling heroin, claiming he was dealing drugs for the first time. “I only did it because I needed the money to buy a return ticket to the UK after the one I had booked expired,” the defendant told investigators.

The man told the officer that he was stranded in Oman when he called a friend back in the UK, asking for some cash. He said his friend told him to go to Dubai for a “quick job” for $1,000 (Dh3,670).

“So I took a bus to Dubai,” he said. When he reached Dubai, his friend in the UK reportedly told him that a Pakistani national would meet him to give him “some pocket money and a package”.

The man said his friend informed him that another man — the ‘drug buyer’ — would be collecting the package from him. The Briton and his Pakistani accomplice were arrested on March 19, 2018, as they handed over the drug stash to the undercover officer.

The police later arrested two other Asian men, who were charged with smuggling the heroin into the country.

‘Procedural errors’

In May 2019, the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance sentenced both the Briton and the 45-year-old Pakistani to death. The other two men were cleared of the charge against them.

Legal consultant Dr Hasan Elhais of Al Rowaad Advocates, who represented the Briton, said there were “procedural errors” in the case.

He claimed that one of the errors was the arrest procedure, while the other was that the “verdict did not clarify whether the panel of three judges at the Court of First Instance was unanimous in their verdict, which is mandatory in passing a death penalty”.

“The undercover policeman was a Pakistani national and his testimony was taken without the presence of a legal translator,” the lawyer had argued in the appellant court.

In April this year, the Abu Dhabi Appellate court rejected the appeal and upheld the death sentence.


Ismail Sebugwaawo

A professional journalist originating from Kampala, Uganda, Ismail is a happy father with strong attachment to family and great values for humanity. He has practiced journalism in UAE for the past 13 years, covering the country's parliament (FNC) and crimes, including Abu Dhabi Police, public prosecution and courts. He also reports about important issues in education, public health and the environment, with a keen interest in human interest stories. When out of reporting duties, he serves the Ugandan community in Abu Dhabi as he wants to see his countrymen happy. Exercising and reading are part of his free time.

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