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Monday 5 November 2007

UAE: Male rape case in Dubai; authorities accused of HIV cover-up

2 Emirati Men Accused of Assaulting Boy

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Two Emirati men are accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old French-Swiss boy, a case that has raised questions about the protection of foreigners and the fairness of a legal system where male rape does not exist as a crime.

The defendants — aged 35 and 18 — briefly appeared in court Wednesday where one was appointed a new lawyer. The other defendant's attorney did not appear in court for the hearing, which lasted a few minutes.

The two are accused of kidnapping two boys and sexually assaulting one of them in July. A third defendant, also accused of taking part in the assault and also Emirati, is being tried in a juvenile court where the proceedings are closed to the public.

Last week, the two adult defendants pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping with deceit and illicit sexual intercourse.

According to court documents, the 35-year-old defendant has been identified as HIV positive.

The mother of the 15-year-old accused authorities Thursday of lying about his HIV status to cover up the fact that AIDS exists in this booming Arab city-state.

The mother, Veronique Robert, a French journalist, told The Associated Press in Paris that she had obtained an official document, dated 2003, indicating authorities in the United Arab Emirates knew one defendant was HIV positive then.

Nevertheless, Emirates authorities told her and French diplomats on four separate occasions after the July attack that none of the three defendants was HIV positive, she said.

"This was a lie of the state," Robert said. "They willfully prevented us from getting treatment for our son so that, above all, nobody would find out that AIDS exists in the Emirates."

The boy and his mother also accuse a police forensic doctor of calling the boy a homosexual while examining him after the assaults.

Robert said she and her son, who previously had attended school in Dubai, where his father works, had left the country early this month because French diplomats told her that her son might be prosecuted for homosexual acts, a crime here.

The AP is using Robert's name with her agreement, but is not identifying her son.

The charges against the two adult defendants carry the death penalty if convicted. It was not immediately clear what sentence the third defendant would face if convicted in juvenile court.

The Emirates' legal system prohibits the media from naming the defendants until a verdict is reached in the case.

The case has garnered much attention and controversy here in this booming Gulf tourist hub, which boasts of its prosperous economy, relatively moderate lifestyles, and fair commercial and criminal legal systems.

But some expatriates here — both affluent working managers and low-paid laborers — have long complained that foreigners have few legal rights. Emirati citizens are far outnumbered by foreign workers and expatriates, mostly from Asia but also from Europe.

Dubai officials deny they have mishandled the case and say they treat fairly both Emiratis and foreigners living in Dubai.

Dubai, like much of the Arab world, also remains largely hostile to homosexuality. The UAE legal system does not recognize rape of men as a crime, only rape of women, although prosecutors can bring other charges in the case of a sexual assault against a man, as they have in the French teenager's case.

According to court documents, the juvenile defendant offered the two French boys, one of whom he knew slightly, a ride home from a Dubai mall. The two French boys got in the car but were later joined by the other two adult defendants, the documents said.

The group drove to the edge of the Dubai desert, where the three defendants are accused of taking turns sexually assaulting one of the boys in the car while the other one was told to stay behind a sand dune, according to the court documents.

The judge on Wednesday set another hearing for Nov. 7.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



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