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The Mideast

British man sentenced to death for attempting to sell drugs to UAE officer

A Briton has been sentenced to death in the United Arab Emirates, the British Embassy confirmed Tuesday, after he and another man were convicted on drug-related charges.

The unnamed British man and a Syrian citizen were found guilty of trying to sell about 3/4 of an ounce of marijuana to an undercover officer, local newspapers reported.

"We can confirm that a British national is facing the death penalty in the United Arab Emirates," a British Embassy spokeswoman said. "We will remain in close contact with him and continue to provide the appropriate consular assistance."

She declined to give identify the man or comment on details of the case. She spoke on condition of anonymity in line with embassy policy.

Emirati court and Justice Ministry officials gave no details about the case by phone Tuesday. A spokesman at the Syrian embassy could not be reached for comment.

Websites of the National and 7 Days newspapers reported that the two men were found guilty by an Abu Dhabi criminal court. They were identified as a 21-year-old Briton and a 19-year-old Syrian.

Initial court verdicts are typically subject to appeal in the Emirates, a seven-state federation that includes the cosmopolitan commercial hub of Dubai and the more conservative oil-rich capital, Abu Dhabi.

It is not unusual for the emirates' rulers to pardon convicted criminals or lighten their sentences.

Although the country is known for soaring skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls, its legal system is based heavily on traditional values that frown upon drug use and indecent behavior.

Besides drug convictions, foreigners in recent years have been jailed or deported for kissing in public, sending racy text messages and giving a fellow driver a raised middle finger. In 2008, two Britons accused of having sex on the beach were sentenced to three months in jail, though their sentences were later suspended.

Executions are relatively rare in the UAE but do occasionally take place.

In February 2011, a man convicted of raping and killing a 4-year-old boy in a mosque bathroom was executed by firing squad in Dubai. It was the first time in three years the UAE had put a prisoner to death.