x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

New mother imprisoned for trafficking must serve a life term

A woman who gave birth in prison while awaiting a verdict on her appeal against a life sentence for drug trafficking has had her sentence upheld.

ABU DHABI // A woman who gave birth in prison while awaiting a verdict on her appeal against a life sentence for drug trafficking has had her sentence upheld. FA, who was pregnant when she was arrested in February, was sentenced by the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court to life in prison on April 14 for trafficking Dh300,000 worth of Valium pills. She was also fined Dh50,000.

The Palestinian woman appealed the verdict at the Abu Dhabi Appellate Court, claiming she did not know it was illegal to sell the drug. She told both courts her employer had left the pills with her, told her that they were "rare" medicine and that he would send someone to collect them. The appeal court upheld the sentence on the grounds that the woman confessed to prosecutors that she had sold Valium before.

Her employer was also convicted in his absence and sentenced to life in prison. Although Valium is a legal medication, commonly used in the treatment of anxiety and muscle pain, it must be distributed by pharmacies under strict regulations and requires a prescription. Ajman Police closed five pharmacies last year that were offering Valium without a prescription. FA was caught on February 10 by an undercover police officer posing as a buyer. When she handed over the Valium in two plastic bags, she was given Dh300,000, which she hid in her shirt. Immediately after the transaction, the officer signalled for other officers to move in and make the arrest.

The woman gave birth last month, court officials said. She has been moved to Al Mafraq prison, where she will stay in a special area for mothers. When FA has finished breast-feeding, the baby will be given to either the father or the woman's family. Federal Law 289, which is based on Sharia, says the child's birth certificate shall not mention that the birth took place in prison. hhassan@thenational.ae