x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Jailed footballer faces longer sentence

Footballer jailed for three years last month for possessing and firing an unlicensed firearm goes on trial again for allegedly consuming alcohol.

DUBAI// An Emirati footballer jailed for three years last month for possessing and firing an unlicensed firearm went on trial again today for allegedly consuming alcohol. The footballer, identified only as SA, 26, who plays for Al Nasr club in Dubai, could be sentenced to another month or two in jail and fined if found guilty of drinking alcohol by the Dubai Misdemeanours Court. The judge adjourned the case after a brief hearing until Sept 17.

The drinking charge is related to a separate incident in February in which SA is accused of forcing an Arab businesswoman into his car outside a Dubai night club and holding her in his apartment. He has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping charges before the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance. Last month, SA was sentenced in the firearms case by the same court after he had failed to appear for an earlier hearing.

Yesterday, his lawyer, Eisa bin Haidar, also appealed to the judge for a re-trial in the firearms case, arguing the defence had not had enough time to prepare its case. Appeals against court verdicts are normally heard by the Dubai Court of Appeal, but Mr Haidar said because SA had been found guilty in absentia he had been barred from making an appeal to the higher court. Mr Haidar also argued that the judge had been upset when issuing the verdict because SA had not appeared at the hearing.

The lawyer said SA failed to appear because he had not been told to present himself in court on that day. It was not immediately known when the judge would make a decision on the request for a new trial, although SA's bail was renewed. SA was convicted in the firearms case of threatening to shoot another Emirati, AJ, 35, unless he knelt on the ground and kissed the feet of his companion. The prosecution said he also fired a shot into the air from an unlicensed 9mm Ruger P85 pistol, endangering the lives of AJ and passers-by.

The incident took place in the parking lot of a hotel in Jumeirah early on March 19. AJ told prosecutors he was leaving the hotel bar just after 3am when he heard the defendant arguing loudly with a companion. AJ said he went to see what was going on and try and calm them down but SA told him: "Leave or I will slap your face." AJ walked away but later returned and asked SA why he had spoken to him like that, to which SA replied: "I will slap you and 10 men like you."

The exchange escalated to pushing and shoving until a member of the hotel security staff pulled them apart, but shortly afterwards SA took the gun from his pocket and pointed it at AJ, firing a shot in the air and telling him to get down on the ground or he would shoot him. As AJ was getting down, SA kicked him in the chest and ran off.