x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Convicted guards will not serve time

Twenty-five police and prison guards found guilty of assaulting inmates during a drug search have their sentences suspended.

DUBAI // Twenty-five police and prison guards found guilty of assaulting inmates during a drug search in which a prisoner suffered serious injuries had their sentences suspended yesterday by the Dubai Appeal Court. But the court upheld their convictions. Anti-riot squad police and prison guards had been accused of using their fists and feet, and police dogs, to intimidate inmates and evacuate the cells quickly at Al Aweer Central Jail on Aug 1 last year.

The prosecution initially charged all 25 guards with assaulting an Armenian inmate, identified only as SK, and others. SK sustained serious spinal injuries after falling down stairs during the search. Throughout the three-month trial, 12 inmates testified that they had been assaulted by guards. The officers were convicted in June by the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance of assaulting prison inmates. The defendants included the former director of Dubai's main male prison, identified only as TK.

TK and six other officers had been sentenced to six months in prison by the lower court on charges of abusing their authority and assaulting inmates in their custody, resulting in disability and disfigurement. The other 18 guards and riot squad members had been each sentenced to three months in jail for simple assault. All 25 sentences were yesterday suspended for three years. In the original case, the defence argued that the spinal injuries suffered by SK were the result of a fall rather than an assault by guards.

Closed-circuit TV footage taken from the prison and screened in a closed court session is believed to have swayed the case in the prosecution's favour. Sources close to the defence team said it was disappointed by yesterday's decision as it was hoping for the convictions to be quashed. The defence will be appealing the ruling before the Dubai Cassation Court, the highest court in Dubai, and has 30 days to present its petition.

hbathish@thenational.ae