x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Leader of sex ring gets life in prison

The Syrian man was found guilty of purchasing women from Morocco and forcing them into prostitution.

ABU DHABI // The man described as the ringleader of Abu Dhabi's largest human-trafficking operation was sentenced to life in prison yesterday by the Criminal Court. SS, a Syrian, was found guilty of purchasing women from Morocco and forcing them into prostitution. As many as 18 women were locked in several flats across Abu Dhabi. They were told that they would have to work as prostitutes until they paid off their "debts".

According to the testimony of the women, they were beaten and starved until they complied. One of the victims escaped in October 2009 when her captors were drunk. She was taken to Ras al Khaimah by a stranger after recounting her ordeal. She contacted police, who informed the authorities in Abu Dhabi. Officers here were granted warrants to raid the villa and flats belonging to the ringleader. He was not present at the time of the raid and was believed to have fled the country.

In January, the Syrian was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison along with seven of his countrymen who operated the ring in a first trial. He was captured in Abu Dhabi five months later and granted a retrial. A person who is tried in absentia can be retried if arrested, upon approval from the attorney general. The wife of the ringleader had told the court that her husband forced her into prostitution three months after she married him.

He denied the human-trafficking charges, claiming the women worked willingly, and has 15 days to appeal the sentence. @Email:myoussef@thenational.ae