x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Insult to Islam accused's lawyer refers to dictionary in trial

The lawyer of a British engineer jailed for cursing mosques asks an appeals court to look up the meaning of 'damn' in the Oxford English Dictionary.

ABU DHABI // The lawyer of an engineer jailed for insulting Islam by referring to "damn" mosques asked the Appeals Court today to look up the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.

The case of JM, a Briton who was working for Abu Dhabi Municipality, is being heard by the Appeals Court for a second time after the Cassation Court ruled its first trial was invalid as there was no translator present.

The engineer, who was in charge of a municipality project to build gardens around mosques, was reported to police by a colleague who claimed he asked: "When will we finish with the damn mosques?" during a meeting.

Yesterday the engineer's lawyer presented an Oxford English Dictionary to the judging panel and asked the court translator to look up the word 'damn'.

"The first meaning for the word 'damned' says: 'According to Christianity, a damned (person) is someone who God is angered with forever... the second meaning says 'damn' can be used for strong criticism in an unofficial way and is a way of expressing anger," read out the translator.

"You were accused of saying 'damn mosques' during a meeting, what do you say about that," the Appeals Court judge asked the engineer.

The defence lawyer interrupted, saying the evidence was invalid and that the case should be dropped.

"We have to carry out our procedures and ask the defendant," the judge replied. "Are you afraid he will say something now that will give us proof? He has already been questioned in court before."

The engineer pleaded not guilty to insulting Islam, insisting he respected the religion. He was originally sentenced to a month in prison by the Misdemeanour Court. At his first appeal trial he said he did not mean to insult Islam or mosques. "I said it out of concern for the project because I wanted to be ready as soon as possible," he said. However the Appeals Court upheld the sentence and the case went to the Cassation Court before being referred back to the Appeals Court.

The Appeals Court will announce its new verdict on April 30.

hdajani@thenational.ae