x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Human traffickers appeal life sentences

Several defendants from the capital's biggest human trafficking case are back in appeals court with evidence they say shows their innocence.

ABU DHABI // Seven men sentenced to life in prison 18 months ago for human trafficking told an appeals court judge yesterday they had new evidence to support their innocence.

The men, plus three others who received lighter sentences, were involved in what wasthe capital's largest human trafficking ring. The Court of Appeal heard their case for the second time after the Court of Cassation sent back the conviction.

The gang consisted of nine Syrian men and a Moroccan woman, MK, who is married to one of the men. She was convicted of operating a web of handlers, drivers and clients, and of locking up 18 Moroccan women in Al Bateen and the Tourist Club area.

The gang represented themselves in court; they told the judge that had not been given the chance to argue their case properly. The judge promised they would be fully heard and given all the time they needed.

One of the men sentenced to life, AK, argued that he had nothing to do with the case and lived in Dubai, not Abu Dhabi. He asked the court to bring the owner of the villa where the victims were held to testify that he was not a tenant.

He also presented a document signed in a Lebanese court by one of the victims and accredited by the UAE Embassy. It showed that her statements in front of police and public prosecution were incorrect, that she never knew AK. The document said she arranged her own visa and ticket to the UAE through a tourism agent.

The gang argued the testimony of the victims was contradictory and asked the court to seek receipts from money transfer offices, as they said the women were sending money home to their families. That, they said, proved the women were not locked up.

HA, also sentenced to life, asked the court to bring a record of his trips to and from the UAE so he could prove that he was not in the country when the trafficking occurred.

All 10 asked that the managers of the tourism companies who issued the victims' visas be brought to court as witnesses. They requested the presence of Maj Abdullah Al Mazrouei, who dealt with the case in 2009.

MK and her husband, meanwhile, said they did not know any of the other eight men or any of the victims.

MK asked the judge, and was granted, a private hearing.

The next hearing has been scheduled for September 21.

hdajani@thenational.ae