British Couple on Trial for Sex on Dubai Beach Ask to Leave Country

A British couple on trial for allegedly having sex on a Dubai beach asked the judge on Tuesday to be allowed to leave the country.

Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors, speaking in low voices, asked the judge for a "quick ruling" that would let them return to Britain. But judge Hamad Abdul Jawad disregarded the request and scheduled another hearing for Sept. 9 to hear testimony from the policeman who arrested the couple.

Palmer, 36, and Acors, 34, were arrested in the early hours July 5 on a Dubai beach after they had been at a hotel party. They were later charged with having sex outside of marriage, public indecency and public drunkenness.

The case has highlighted the strong contrasts in the booming United Arab Emirates, particularly Dubai. The city has a much more freewheeling attitude than other places in the Gulf, with cash flowing from oil and finance and a huge expatriate population. But the case is a reminder that it remains a conservative Arab nation underneath.

Legal experts say the couple could face up to two years in prison if convicted. The case raised a media storm here, and partway through Tuesday's session the judge ordered journalists out of the courtroom.

"I hope they will not get any penalty, God willing," the couple's Dubai-based lawyer, Hassan Matter, told The Associated Press after the session.

He said medical examinations of Palmer after the arrest "prove she did not have sex," though he did not elaborate. He also dismissed one witness who told the court he saw the couple having sex, saying the witness was far away and it was nighttime.

Palmer, a former employee of a Dubai-based publishing firm, told the court during an August session that she and Acors, a tourist visiting Dubai, were "hugging and kissing" but did not have sex.

Public display of affection, such as touching, kissing or hugging, is illegal in Dubai and couples -- particularly if not married -- can be detained by police for indecency.

In July, a few days after the British couple was detained, Dubai police announced it has arrested 79 people, mostly tourists, for topless sunbathing, nudity and other acts authorities deemed indecent.