x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Appeal court halves sex-case sentences

Prison terms lowered to six months for two Emirati youths guilty of consensual relations.

ABU DHABI // An Emirati teenager who alleged she was gang-raped by five men but later retracted her claim saw her sentence reduced from one year to six months by an appeal court. The Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance convicted LH, 18, of consensual sex and sentenced her to a year in prison on June 14. The court found her guilty of having sex with YM, 19, an Emirati military police officer, who also was sentenced to one year in prison.

Both LH and YM appealed their sentences. The appeal court took into consideration the defendants' young age and LH's retraction of the rape charge, court officials said yesterday. The court granted YM the same reduction in sentence. On April 23, LH told Baniyas police she had been gang-raped. During the criminal proceedings, prosecutors said LH had gone for a drive on May 2 with an Emirati friend, HA, in Baniyas, where they had sex. Prosecutors argued that her decision to go with him alone in the car partly showed her consent to sex.

They said after the two had sex, HA, 19, an Emirati, called five friends - four Emiratis and one Iraqi - and invited them to join him in raping her in the back seat of his Nissan Altima. During the second hearing of the Criminal Court proceedings, LH recanted the rape claim. The Public Prosecution, which had the authority to drop the rape charges, decided not to. The forensics unit at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department tested LH within two days of the incident. Evidence gathered was cited by the public prosecution in charging the men with rape.

LH told the court that bruises on her body came from a beating administered by her brother because he suspected she had relationships with men. Charges against her brother were later dropped. Although prosecutors accused HA of first having sex with the teenager, genetic material recovered from the scene led to the conviction of YM instead. HA was acquitted of the rape and consensual sex charges. Instead, he was sentenced - along with another defendant - to three months in jail for the less serious charge of being alone in the company of a woman. Those charges represented rare court rulings in which Sharia law was directly imposed. Police rarely arrest people based on such charges alone; more often they are secondary charges connected to other sex offences.

Two other defendants were fined Dh5,000 for violations of public decency. The forensic report found 12 bruises ranging from 1cm to 7cm long on LH's upper lip, hands, thighs, knee and behind her left ear. "Some of the bruises are new, two to three days old, and some of them are old, seven to 15 days old," the report said. The report attributed the bruises to body pressure or being hit with a solid object.

LH has been in prison since filing the complaint, meaning she will be released towards the end of November. hhassan@thenational.ae