x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Paternity row sparked mother's suicide 'bomb belt' drama in Dubai

The mother's 'suicide belt' turns out to be fake - but the case has prompted calls to improve security.

Dubai Police sealed off the area near the Dubai Court after an Uzbek woman threatened to detonate an 'explosives belt', which later turned out to be fake, in the Dubai Prosecution building. Pawan Singh / The National
Dubai Police sealed off the area near the Dubai Court after an Uzbek woman threatened to detonate an 'explosives belt', which later turned out to be fake, in the Dubai Prosecution building. Pawan Singh / The National
DUBAI // A tense 13-hour standoff in the Dubai Courts complex ended early yesterday when a mother who said she was wearing an explosive belt and threatened to detonate it gave herself up.

Zulfiya Hamraeva, from Uzbekistan, was taken into custody at 1.30am. No charges have yet been brought against her. The "bomb belt" was found to be fake and no other explosive devices were found.

The drama began when Ms Hamraeva, who is in her thirties, approached the Dubai Prosecution reception desk about midday on Sunday, accompanied by her six-year-old son.

She said the boy's father was an Emirati with whom she had an extramarital affair, asked for help in convincing him of his responsibilities for the child and demanded a paternity test.

Ms Hamraeva opened her abaya to reveal what she said was an explosive belt, and said she had also planted explosives in the surrounding area.

A team from national security and Dubai Police sealed off the building and conducted a search of the area.

Meanwhile the Deputy Chief of Dubai Police, Maj Gen Khamis Al Muzaina, led negotiations with Ms Hamraeva, along with her lawyer, Muna Jumaa.

Ms Hamraeva finally gave herself up more than 13 hours after making her initial threat.

Prosecution staff received text messages at about 3am yesterday advising them to come to work in the morning as normal.

Ms Hamraeva could face a variety of charges, including one of "issuing threats to explode a government institution".

She could also be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Law, or under the national security section of the penal code, which refers specifically to the use or attempted use of explosives.

In cases where the threat involves fake explosives, separate charges are applicable.

And in the light of her confession to an extramarital affair, she could be charged with having consensual sex outside of marriage.

Prosecution staff returning to work yesterday called for improved security measures.

Visitors to the main courts building are not required to pass through a metal detector, although they must do so to enter individual courtrooms.

Essam Mohammed, a prosecution employee, suggested installing X-ray machines at the main entrances of the courts and prosecution buildings, like those at some ministries.

"Yesterday's event doesn't shake the high level of security and safety we have in the UAE but as they say: better safe than sorry."

His colleague Hasan Rustom said X-ray machines were a necessity at the buildings regardless of the bomb scare.

"Not everyone who comes in here walks out happy with whatever decision was given in his or her case and he or she or even their family members may attempt to do something crazy that could harm the innocent people present at that moment," he said.

Yousif Al Bahar, a lawyer, said he had been told by police friends that on several occasions people had tried to carry weapons such as swords into court.

"Dubai's court and prosecution buildings are vital places because they see criminals coming in and out. At some stage, one of those may carry out a crazy and dangerous act," he said.

Another prosecution employee said installing X-ray machines at the main entrance would not solve the problem. "The distance between the main entrance and the reception hall is no more than 10 metres," he said. "An explosion at the entrance would be just as harmful to those inside as an explosion at reception."

Dubai Prosecution's public relations office said there were "no comments from our side", and the police did not respond.