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Heroin trial adjourned by judge

The Middle East's largest heroin drug case was delayed for the third time by the Sharjah criminal court of first instance yesterday.

SHARJAH // The case involving the Middle East's biggest heroin seizure was adjourned for the third time yesterday by the Criminal Court of First Instance due to the absence of a key witness. Sixteen Afghan men appeared before the Sharia court as the judge heard evidence from one of the police officers who made the first arrests. The officer, whose identity was withheld at the request of the court, told how he inspected an orange trolley on the night of Aug 7 2008, after receiving a tip-off about a smuggling ring.

The Sharjah-Dubai joint operation found 18 men working under the cover of a food importing company. Officers seized six suitcases in an apartment and found packages in lorries full of heroin with a street value of Dh40 million (US$11m). Since the arrest, the prosecution has brought charges against 18 people, two of whom are being tried in their absence. "These two missing people are believed to be the brains behind this operation," the defence lawyer Reda al Ramadi said.

"The judge postponed the hearing because one of the key prosecution witnesses did not appear in court." Sharjah's attorney general, Ismael Abu Ezza, is seeking the death penalty for the accused. The hearing will resume on March 29. myoussef@thenational.ae

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