x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

RAK drug traffickers sentenced to death by firing squad

Sentences given to five convicted drug traffickers is a "strong" message to those involved in the illegal trade, law experts say.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Death sentences given to five convicted drug traffickers were a "strong" warning to those involved in the illegal trade, law experts said yesterday. The sentences, handed down on Wednesday, were the first in RAK for drug trafficking. It was also the first time a court in the emirate had sentenced five defendants to die at once. "If drugs were to enter the country, it's very dangerous, so the decision is very strong," said Mohammed Ahmed, who has worked in the emirate for three years as an adviser to a firm that practises defence law.

The defendants were sentenced to death by firing squad. Four of the men were charged in connection with one case, and the other for a separate crime. In the first case, four Pakistani men were convicted of attempting to sell heroin they smuggled from Pakistan. According to court documents, an undercover CID officer offered one member of the gang, an RAK resident, Dh20,000 (US$5,400) for the drugs.

The officer accompanied the dealer to the gang's base in Sharjah, where the drugs were hidden in walls. All four of the men involved were employed in the UAE. They later confessed that one gang member, a 30-year-old man, had swallowed 76 heroin capsules to smuggle them into the UAE. In the second case, a 32-year-old Omani man was convicted of trafficking 2kg of opium and 1kg of hashish. He was also caught by an undercover CID officer.

The Omani, according to court documents, met a dealer from Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, hid the drugs in a television set and took them to a beach in downtown RAK, where he was arrested. The drugs had an estimated value of more than Dh50,000. The authorities did not release the names of the condemned men, but said all had given full confessions. They were charged with drug trafficking and possession with the intention of distribution and trade.

Judge Bilal Abd el Baqi, who presided over the panel of judges, said the punishment was in accordance with the law of the land. "It [the verdict] has many dimensions," he said. "It is to keep the stability of the community and to keep the health of all people in general; to keep the economy straight. And above all of this, it is the implementation of the law." Sentencing is carried out by a panel of three judges. If they disagree, the least-severe sentence is chosen. All death penalty cases are sent to the Court of Appeal within 15 days. If the death penalty is upheld, the case is sent to the Supreme Court for final judgment. The last death sentence in RAK was issued in July 2007 to an Emirati man for a double murder. He was executed by firing squad in February 2008.

Judge el Baqi said the defendants "were surprised and astonished, but they knew the crime they committed". @Email:azacharias@thenational.ae