DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A Dubai court on Thursday sentenced an American to one month in prison after he was charged with stealing a pair of police handcuffs.
The punishment handed down to Adam Foster, 30, was far less than his supporters originally feared. The Burdett, New York, engineer had been facing as many as seven years behind bars for the alleged theft from a Dubai police station, according to his lawyer.
A judge in the city-state's misdemeanor court read out Foster's sentence but did not provide details of the guilty verdict.
Foster's lawyer, Yousuf Hammad, had urged the court to reduce the charges against his client to finding and failing to report lost property. He also had argued for leniency in the case, saying that Foster had no criminal record and had agreed to turn the handcuffs over to police.
Hammad told The Associated Press he was still waiting for court papers to be filed for details of the verdict. He said his client would begin serving his sentence immediately.
"He decided to go to jail today," Hammad said. "I cannot say he was happy, but he accepted the judgment."
Foster was arrested in February while on a temporary work assignment in Dubai.
He said he found the handcuffs on the ground in a shopping mall parking lot and put them in his bag "without really thinking." A day earlier, he had been questioned by police after security guards at his company's job site discovered alcohol in his car, according to an account on his Facebook page.
The handcuffs were discovered at the airport as Foster was leaving the country.
Authorities alleged the handcuffs were police property that he had stolen from the police station where he had been questioned earlier.
Court records showed Foster gave police different accounts of what happened. He acknowledges that he signed a confession written in Arabic, but claims he did so under duress after being hit on the feet by a police officer.
Foster could not immediately be reached for comment, but supporters posting on his Facebook page expressed relief at the relatively lenient sentence.
More than 1,900 people have joined an online support page for Foster that urged members to petition Emirati and U.S. authorities on his behalf.
Shortly after the verdict was announced, a woman who identified herself as Foster's girlfriend Jennifer Pasto thanked supporters in a message posted on his Facebook page.
"All of your prayers, letters and emails helped so much!! Thank you all for everything you have done," she wrote.