x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Woman who alleged rape jailed for a year

Emirati woman, 18, and man, 19, found guilty of consensual sex, while four others are sentenced over less serious charges.

ABU DHABI // A teenager who alleged she was gang-raped by five men but later recanted her claim has been sentenced to a year in prison for consensual sex. The five she had initially accused were acquitted of rape by the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court yesterday, but were found guilty of less serious charges.

The Emirati teenager LH, 18, was found to have consented to intercourse with YM, a 19-year-old military police officer who was also sentenced to a year in jail after the rape charge against him was changed to one of consensual sex by the judge. Two other defendants, both referred to as HA, were sentenced to three months in prison each for being alone in the company of a woman. The fifth and sixth defendants were fined Dh5,000 each for violations of public decency.

The latter verdicts represented rare court rulings in which Sharia law was directly imposed. Police rarely arrest people based on such charges alone; more often they are secondary charges typically connected to sex offences. LH has been in custody since filing the complaint. She was never appointed a lawyer during the trial, and none of her family members appeared in court during the proceedings. According to the forensics report submitted to the court LH reported the incident on April 23.

Genetic material recovered from the scene led the judge to convict YM of consensual sex, while acquitting HA. The forensics report found that LH was not a virgin and that there was no genital bruising. It found 12 bruises ranging from 1cm to 7cm long on her upper lip, hands, thighs, knee and behind her left ear. "Some of the bruises are new, two to three days old, and some of them are old, seven to 15 days old," the report said. The report attributed the bruises to body pressure or being hit with something solid.

During the trial, prosecutors claimed that LH had gone for a drive on May 2 with her male Emirati friend, HA, in Baniyas, where they had intercourse. Prosecutors said the fact she agreed to go with him alone in the car partly showed her consent to sex. They said that, HA, 19, then called five of his friends - four Emiratis and one Iraqi - and invited them to join him in raping her in the backseat of his Nissan Altima. Charges against one defendant were later dropped.

On May 25, LH retracted her accusation of rape. Despite this, only the Public Prosecution had the authority to drop the rape charges - which they did not. Within two days of the incident, LH had been tested by the forensics unit at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department. Evidence of assault was cited by the public prosecution in charging the men with rape. LH told the court that bruises on her body came from a beating administered by her brother because he suspected she had relationships with men.

Each of the six has 15 days to appeal the verdict.
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