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Dubai: Britons get jail time in sex on beach case

Thursday, October 16, 2008

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates —  A British couple was sentenced to three months in jail Thursday in a case that has caused controversy in this Gulf boom town because the two were charged with having sex on the beach.

The judge did not provide any details about his verdict as is customary in Dubai, so it is unclear whether Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors were found guilty of engaging in intercourse, or some lesser offense.

The two Britons, who are both in their 30s and met at an all-you-can-drink champagne brunch before the alleged incident occurred, were arrested in July and later charged with sex outside of marriage, public indecency and drunkenness.

In addition to the three month jail sentence, Judge Hamdi Mustafa Abu el-Khair levied the equivalent of about a $270 fine against each of the defendants and ordered them to be deported from Dubai after serving their prison time.

"I will appeal (the verdict) and ask a judge to look at the medical report that says they did not have sex," their lawyer, Hassan Matter, told the Associated Press after Thursday's ruling.

Both previously admitted they were drunk but denied having sex. The two were not in the courtroom Thursday to hear the judge's verdict, and it was unclear if they would remain out of prison while their lawyer appealed the case.

Matter said he will submit his appeal after the judge issues a formal explanation of his verdict, which the lawyer expects in a week to 10 days. The defense has to file an appeal within 15 days.

"I think the judge gave a small punishment for a kiss, not sex on the beach," said Matter.

The couple could have received two years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Public displays of affection are illegal in Dubai _ a city that has worked hard to cultivate an image as a haven for Western tourists and businesses in the Middle East but has a conservative legal code based on Islamic laws and tribal rules.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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