x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Death-row drugs inmate granted retrial after three-year legal battle

A drug dealer on death row has been granted a retrial after his appeals were shunted back and forth between courts for nearly three years.

ABU DHABI // A drug dealer on death row has been granted a retrial after his appeals were shunted back and forth between courts for nearly three years. MAA, from Pakistan, was sentenced to death at the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance in March 2007 after being convicted of trafficking hashish.

He argued in his appeal that he was coerced by a police officer into obtaining the drugs. Key police witnesses admitted at the last Appeals Court hearing they did not remember the full details of his case, including how they collected evidence against him. The Abu Dhabi Appellate Court upheld the verdict, but the Court of Cassation overturned it, sending the case back to the Appeals Court as the translator of MAA's police statement did not give his evidence under oath.

But at three separate hearings, the Appeals Court insisted on the death penalty, citing his police confession. The Court of Cassation will now re-try the case itself, rather than sending it back to the lower court. MAA's lawyer is seeking an aquittal on the grounds that the police investigation was unreliable and that the translator was not qualified and was not under oath. MAA was arrested on January 20, 2007, after police raided his apartment in Al Ain and found what court records describe as a "large amount" of hashish. MAA told the police he had never dealt in drugs until he was approached by an undercover police officer who asked him to set up the drug deal.

He claimed the officer promised him a job as a police secret agent. MAA said he then contacted a man in Pakistan identified as Khayal Shir, whom he knew because they lived in the same neighbourhood in Pakistan. "I knew that he is a drug trafficker, and that he trafficks drugs into Iran, Kuwait and Qatar," MAA told prosecutors in 2007. MAA said he called Mr Shir, who told him he would ask a partner in Iran to deliver the drugs to the UAE.

"A person from Iran called me after a few days, and told me he would send hashish to Dubai," he said. "He called again and asked me to go to Al Abra in Dubai." MAA told prosecutors the police officer was with him while he made these arrangements, and was aware of every step of the deal, including the delivery of the drugs. According to MAA, the officer asked him to keep the hashish in his apartment until they found a customer. "I kept the drug inside the place where I worked in Mussafah for eight months before I moved to a new job in Al Ain a month and a half ago," he said.

Police officers, including the officer dealing with MAA, told the court they were aware of the drugs for three months before ordering the raid. Four officers involved in the raid admitted they could not recall the procedures they followed to collect information on MAA. The Court of Cassation's verdict is expected on July 20. hhassan@thenational.ae