x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Shop manager appeals conviction for indecent video game

A defence attorney for the man argues that racier pictures than those in his countertop video game are legally available in the Emirates.

Prosecutors say certain video games, such as the one known locally as MegaTouch, present obscene material.
Prosecutors say certain video games, such as the one known locally as MegaTouch, present obscene material.

ABU DHABI // The defence lawyer for a shop manager convicted of displaying "indecent" images in a countertop video game machine presented an appeals judge with legally obtained images that he said were more racy than those in the games.

SM, the manager of a billiards hall in Musaffah, was convicted in November by the Abu Dhabi Court of Misdemeanours of presenting obscene material to the public.

The shop manager and owner had been sentenced to two months in jail in a trial held in their absence. The manager, an Egyptian, was ordered to be deported after serving his sentence.

A retrial was held after they agreed to attend the proceedings, and the shop owner was acquitted because he did not know what the games contained. The verdict against the manager, however, was confirmed by the same court.

The two had been referred to prosecutors after police received a tip that the video games displayed pornographic images.

The shop manager appealed the verdict, arguing that the machine was legally obtained and that he was not responsible for what it contained. The machine, he said, had 130 games and he could not possibly go through all the games and their different levels to ensure they did not include anything illicit.

SM's lawyer, Ibrahim al Tamimi, presented the judge with receipts to show that the machines were sold legally. "Such machines, locally known as 'MegaTouch', could be found in coffee shops and people often play them while smoking shisha," he said.

"The machines were licensed by the concerned authorities," Mr al Tamimi told the court. "If they did not find out about what the games contained, how could he find out?"

The game in question, prosecutors said, displayed pornographic images in the game's advanced levels.

But Mr al Tamimi presented a bundle of magazines and underwear boxes in a bid to demonstrate the images in the games were no worse than what could be found in other legally purchased materials.

"The images on these underwear boxes are not more decent than the ones the games contained. They are, in fact, much more obscene," he said.

Mr al Tamimi asked the court to acquit his client based on lack of knowledge, intent and responsibility, noting again that the games were legally purchased.

Shops must obtain a licence for providing computer or video games from the Department of Economic Development. Shop owners can apply online to obtain initial clearance. They are then asked to present certain documents and clearance certificates from the police; the Department of Economic Development's inspection teams must also sign off before a shopkeeper can obtain a licence. But shop owners can later install new games on the machines.

The case was adjourned for a verdict, but a date was not announced.

hhassan@thenational.ae