x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dubai court acquits two zirconium suspects

Two men, charged with attempting to import and sell zirconium - a mineral that in some forms can be used in rockets and nuclear reactors - are acquitted.

DUBAI // Two men charged with attempting to import and re-sell 240kg of zirconium - a mineral that in some forms can be used in rockets and nuclear reactors - were acquitted again yesterday, this time by the Dubai Court of Appeal. AA, 48, a Jordanian broker, and SB, 43, an Emirati legal consultant, were charged last year with violating a treaty that forbids the import of equipment, substances or machines used in manufacturing explosives without obtaining permission.

They were acquitted in February by the Court of Misdemeanors, but the Public Prosecution appealed in April. Prosecutors have not indicated whether they will appeal further to the Court of Cassation, which could decide to review the case on purely procedural grounds. The men were arrested in November 2007 after an undercover police officer posed as an Iranian buyer. However, the misdemeanors court cleared them after hearing expert testimony that the zirconium in question was not suitable for use in a reactor. The metal has many other, civilian applications, including surgical appliances, sandpaper and dental crowns.

A policeman involved in the sting operation cited an informant as saying the zirconium was hidden in warehouses in the Jebel Ali and Al Quoz industrial areas. Interrogations found that the suspect was using four different mobile phones to deal with potential buyers, according to prosecution records. The chief prosecutor said AA was familiar with the importance of zirconium after having worked on a special team maintaining military equipment and had traded in the metal for four years.

The earlier judgment was based on lack of evidence. SB's lawyer, Saeed al Ghailani, told the appeal court that the investigation and arrest did not follow proper procedures because no warrant was issued and the investigations were based on hearsay. amustafa@thenational.ae