NZers in court in drugs charges

Three New Zealand citizens held for more than two months in the United Arab Emirates on drugs charges are due to appear in court today.

Four New Zealanders were arrested in the December 19 drugs bust in Sharjah, however one has since been released, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) confirmed.

All four were living in UAE. Formal charges have not yet been laid by the authorities, an MFAT spokeswoman said.

"We have been advised that the next court hearing is scheduled for 24 February.

"Consular representatives from the New Zealand Consulate-General in Dubai have visited the detained New Zealanders on three occasions to check on their health and well-being, and provide consular support.

"As is the case with all legal proceedings involving New Zealand citizens, the Ministry cannot comment on the ongoing legal process or interfere in the judicial proceedings of another country."

Consular staff in Dubai were continuing to provide updates and advice to the families of the detainees concerned, the spokeswoman said.

"The Consulate-General's role is to monitor the New Zealand citizens' welfare and ensure that they have the same rights as other detainees in the United Arab Emirates."

The UAE has strict laws concerning drugs offences. In 2012, Briton Nathaniel Lees was sentenced to death by firing squad and spent time on death row after selling less than an ounce of cannabis. His fate remains unclear.

Despite the strict sentences, death penalties in the UAE are automatically reviewed by the Appeal Court, then the Supreme Court and finally by the Court of Cassation, the Telegraph reported.

Usually, 19 judges consider the punishment and if one dissents, the capital sentence is quashed.

The country's leaders can also veto the ultimate punishment. Of the around 12 people who have received capital sentences for drugs offences since 2007, none have been executed.

 

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