x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Case against bleeding gums man ruled toothless

Man acquitted of theft because the only evidence against him was based on an ancient superstition.

ABU DHABI // A man was acquitted of theft yesterday because the only evidence against him was based on an ancient superstition.

At an earlier hearing a few weeks ago in the Criminal Court of First Instance, HM, from Bangladesh, was accused in the of stealing money from a roommate in a labour camp.

His roommates suggested that they reveal the thief using an old Bangladeshi method of chewing dry rice. The belief is that when a thief chews dry rice, his gums will bleed. About 10 men who were sharing accommodation took part. HM was the only one whose gums bled, and he was forced to sign a confession, according to court documents.

But he argued in court that he had an artificial tooth that caused his gums to bleed easily.

HM took the tooth out in court and showed it to the judge.

"Put it back on," the judge told him.

At yesterday's hearing the judge dismissed the case on the grounds that there was no evidence against him.

Judicial superstitions are common throughout the Middle East and Asia. Bedouin tribes, for instance, would check to see whether someone was a thief by burning a piece of metal and placing it on the tongue of the suspect. If it stuck to the tongue, the person was thought responsible because a guilty man's mouth may be dry, having little saliva.

hdajani@thenational.ae