x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Six handed jail sentences over 16,000 guns bound for Yemen

Lawyer says Turkish cargo clearance officer jailed for three years was duped into travelling to Emirates and was unaware shipment contained guns.

ABU DHABI // Six men were sentenced to prison yesterday for their part in trying to ship 16,000 pistols through Dubai into Yemen.

FG, a cargo clearance officer in Turkey, was given a three-year sentence and fined Dh15,000 by the State Security Court.

Five men, IS and MA, Omanis; and AM, AA and AB, all Egyptian, were sentenced to five years in prison and a Dh15,000 fine. They were not in court yesterday.

Five others, MA, MM and SM, Egyptians; ASh, a Qatari; and IK, an Indian, were acquitted.

All 11 men were accused of possessing and transferring weapons without a permit.

In March, Dubai Police intercepted what they said was a shipment of guns worth Dh16 million bound for the town of Sa'dah in northern Yemen. The shipment came from Turkey.

Police described the pistols as designed for personal use, and not as military weapons. A forensics report said the guns were real.

After his acquittal, MM, 47, who manages the import company Dubai Light Textiles, said that when he found out his company had received a shipment of what he thought was ceramics and furniture, he ordered it to be returned or transferred.

It was instead placed in a storage room, he said. It was not until later that he found out there were firearms concealed in the crates.

"I import only from sources who I know from before," he said, adding that he did not know what happened after the shipment was put in storage.

The storage manager, IK, only looked at the top layer of what was in the boxes, which was furniture.

"Then, while it was stored, the top box fell and some guns came out," IK said after yesterday's hearing. "I thought they were toys for children, but I told my supervisor [MM] anyway."

MM said he then ordered the shipment out of the warehouse and transferred to another company. When police discovered the shipment, investigators traced it to MM.

In the hearing two weeks ago, the lawyer of ASh argued that his client had no idea what was in the shipment and that a friend had asked him to receive it. ASh works in cargo transfers.

FG's lawyer argued that his client had been tricked into coming to the UAE to deal with the cargo after the shipment was seized. "He is a cargo clearance officer and he was asked to come and clear the shipment. If he knew the shipment contained weapons, why would he come to the UAE to clear it?" the lawyer said. "When the shipment was seized and the investigations took place he was not even in the country.

"He did not have any control over the shipment and is not connected to any of the concerned parties officially."

The men convicted in absentia have been outside the UAE since the investigation began. It was not clear how they were involved.

The decisions of the State Security Court cannot be appealed against. However, a pardon can be sought from the President.

hdajani@thenational.ae