'Sex on the beach' Britons spared jail in Dubai
Suspended three-month jail terms were passed down against two Britons convicted of having sex on the beach in the booming Gulf emirate.
DUBAI, 25 November 2008
An appeals court in Dubai on Tuesday suspended three-month jail terms against two Britons convicted of having sex on the beach in the booming Gulf emirate but ordered them to leave the country.
Michelle Palmer, 36, and Vince Acors, 34, who have been on bail during their trial, were not in court when the verdict was issued.
Their lawyer Hassan Matar said a three-month prison sentence imposed by a lower court had been suspended but that the conviction stood and that the pair would now be deported.
"I'm very happy. The ruling proves that the judicial system in Dubai is fair... it is not subject to external pressure," Matar said. "The court found they deserved mercy."
The two were found guilty in October of having sex in a public place and drinking alcohol in a highly publicised case in the emirate, which despite its pro-Western outlook still adheres to certain strict Islamic rules and bans sex out of wedlock.
Palmer and Acors denied charges of having sex in public and committing public indecency, but admitted to being under the influence of alcohol when they were caught on Dubai's Jumeirah public beach in July after meeting at a champagne brunch in a five-star hotel.
In addition to the jail sentence and deportation, they were each fined 1,000 dirhams (270 dollars) for drinking alcohol. Both had remained free on bail during the trial.
"The verdict concerning their expulsion remains valid," Matar said, although stating there was no deadline for their deportation. "There are only a few routine procedures to complete for their departure."
He said he was planning to call for a suspension of the deportation order to allow Palmer and Acors to return to the UAE in future if they wished.
At the opening of their trial in August, Palmer denied having sex with Acors, saying they were simply "kissing and hugging."
Matar has insisted that the results of a medical test on Palmer just hours after they were arrested on July 5 showed "she had not engaged in recent sexual intercourse," while the medical report for Acors was inconclusive.
Palmer was sacked from her job as a publishing executive in the UAE following the case, while Acors was visiting Dubai at the time.
The case turned the spotlight on the lifestyle of the 120,000-plus British residents of the UAE, around 100,000 of whom live in Dubai, a bustling city state which hosts hundreds of thousands of Western residents and tourists.