x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Woman loses appeal over sex case

A young South African woman working in a Khor Fakkan dive centre remains in jail although her employer - an Emirati man with whom she was convicted of having sex - has been freed.

A young South African woman working in a Khor Fakkan dive centre remains in jail although her employer - an Emirati man with whom she was convicted of having sex - has been freed. An appeal court in the small town on Sharjah's east coast relied on a disputed confession by the 22-year-old woman, identified only as RH, to reject her appeal against convictions on charges of having sex outside marriage and being alone with a man in a commercial building - the dive centre - after hours. The three judges also upheld her three-month prison term.

But the court cleared the woman's employer, MH, aged 41, of the sex charge. He had been sentenced to six months in jail by a lower court on the two charges but was released immediately after the appeal court imposed only a one-month jail term for being alone with RH when police raided the diving centre at 3am on May 16. RH held back tears as she was led away in handcuffs, walking past her mother, Ina Hillier, and younger sister, Maxine Hillier, as she was taken back to the jail where she has spent the last 36 days.

She was told by the head judge that even though her appeal had been unsuccessful, her sentence was being expedited and she would be released within three weeks. A translator said she would probably then be deported. Despite the decisions of the first instance and appeal courts, RH's family maintains that she and MH are innocent and her confession was obtained under duress by the police. She signed the police statement which contained the confession, despite it being written in Arabic, a language she does not speak or read. Medical tests carried out to show if the pair had had intercourse came back negative.

After yesterday's hearing, a court translator told RH's family that the confession she signed, in a police statement in Arabic, was pivotal. The fact that she was not a virgin did not help her case. RH's father, Freddie Hillier, claimed that she was frightened and felt pressurised into making and signing the police statement. In court yesterday, her mother told the court interpreter that, before coming to the UAE, RH and the rest of the family had been living in Tanzania where it was unsafe to travel late at night. Friends had been attacked and robbed while driving at night.

"Try to understand - the way we raised our children is if they are far away [at night], before they drive home they ask that they'd rather stay with friends," she said. jhenzell@thenational.ae