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Emirates sheik denies assaulting American

Published on 25/11/2008

25 November 2008

GENEVA – A brother of the United Arab Emirates’ ruler appealed to a Swiss court Monday to overturn his conviction for assaulting an American with his belt in a luxury hotel bar.

A lawyer for Sheik Falah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan denied that the 38-year-old whipped Silvano Orsi, 40, after the American declined a bottle of champagne the sheik offered him in August 2003.

Defence lawyer Marco Crisante urged a three-judge panel in the Geneva cantonal (state) criminal court to declare the sheik innocent and annul the CHF 10,000 fine imposed by the Geneva police tribunal in July.

The lower court had convicted the sheik of inflicting "bodily harm with the use of a dangerous object" and also imposed a suspended penalty of CHF 540,000, which would be payable in the event of another infraction in Switzerland during the next three years.

Geneva’s chief prosecutor, Daniel Zappelli, told the appeals court that it should uphold the verdict. Zappelli said two former hotel employees and a security officer had independently testified that they had seen the sheik assaulting Orsi.

Crisante said Orsi’s accusations were "false" and purely motivated by his desire to gain money from the sheik.

Orsi, a resident of Rochester, NY, claims that after he refused the champagne, the sheik – whom he had never met – came up behind him, jostled his glasses, sat in his lap and tried to kiss and fondle him. When Orsi protested, the assault began, he says.

The sheik says the men got into a heated argument after he overheard someone call him gay and acknowledged that he pulled his belt from his trousers, but insists he never struck Orsi.

Crisante said the sheik’s bodyguards intervened and prevented him from whipping Orsi.

Orsi’s lawyer Alec Reymond said the sheik "did not have sufficient education to understand he cannot whip other people like a dog" and asked the court to uphold the ruling.

Prosecutor Zappelli has said Orsi’s injuries and post-traumatic shock from the beating left him incapable of working.

It was unclear how long it would take for the judges to issue a verdict. Neither the sheik nor Orsi attended the hearing Monday.

The defendant is a brother of Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who was appointed president of the United Arab Emirates in 2004 after the death of their father, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

[AP / Expatica]