x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

New murder trial for UAE footballer

Player has acquittal overturned, but two other defendants sentenced to death in the April 2008 death of a man in Sharjah.

ABU DHABI // A UAE international footballer cleared of first-degree murder must face a new trial, the Federal Supreme Court ruled yesterday. The court overturned a lower court verdict acquitting the player, while upholding death penalties against two others. Justice Falah al Hajeri sent the case of FJ, the football player, back to the lower courts for retrial. FJ and eight other defendants appeared before the Sharjah Criminal Court of First instance in early 2009, charged with killing or witnessing the killing of JYJ during a fight in Al Rifaa, Sharjah, in April 2008.

MJ, who is FJ's brother, and MBJ, both Sharjah footballers who were sentenced to death in the earlier ruling, had their sentences confirmed. The court also upheld the acquittal of MN, another Sharjah footballer. The defence lawyers for the men told the Federal Supreme Court that Sharjah Police suppressed evidence during their investigation. Sharjah courts had charged three other defendants, MN, HS and HA, with failing to report a crime. Justice al Hajeri ruled the charges should be changed to premeditated murder, as prosecutors demanded at the first trial. FJ, MJ and MBJ were all originally sentenced to death. MBJ was additionally sentenced to 39 lashes for drinking alcohol.

Six other defendants, including another brother of FJ and MBJ's brother, were sentenced to three years in prison because they attempted to smuggle MJ out of the country. Prosecutors said the defendants used knives and swords to kill JYJ. MJ initiated the beating by hitting JYJ with a sword on the left side of his face, prosecutors said, while MBJ stabbed him on his left shoulder. Prosecutors said all the other defendants were present during the attack and help with it. The defendants appealed, and the Sharjah Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence for MJ and MBJ, acquitted FJ and reduced the jail sentence from three years to one year for others. Prosecutors, as well as the victim's family, were unhappy with the verdict and requested an appeal at the Federal Supreme Court.

The upheld death sentences will be submitted to Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE, whose signature is required before they are executed. The defendants whose verdicts were overturned will go through new hearings by a different panel before their cases are referred back to the Federal Supreme Court. Death sentences automatically go through an appeal process and must pass through all levels of judiciary. The victim's family have rejected to accept diyaa, or blood money, and insisted yesterday, through a lawyer, on the death penalty. Negotiations with the family to accept blood money are ongoing and the family will be required by law to attend the execution, where they can still stop it. @Email:hhassan@thenational.ae