Imprisoned For A Kiss? Two British in Trouble in Dubai

Couple caught kissing in a Dubai restaurant faces jail time & deportation.

March 15, 2010, 10:43 AM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, March 15, 2010 — -- A couple caught kissing in a Dubai restaurant faces a month of jail time and imminent deportation, local media reported this week.

Ayman Najafi, 24, and Charlotte Adams, 25, have appealed a conviction for public indecency, saying a simple peck on the cheek was blown out of proportion as they dined at Bob's Easy Diner, a restaurant on a seaside strip known as 'The Walk.'

The couple -- both are British citizens -- was taken to court after an Emirati woman sitting with her children at a table nearby reported them to the police, saying they were kissing passionately and touching each other.

"We greeted each other and kissed on the cheeks," Adams told the Dubai Appeals Court, according to Gulf News. The couple was also fined for consuming alcohol; though drinking is allowed in Dubai's bars, hotels, and private homes, those stopped by police can be punished if intoxicated.

The Emirati woman who called Dubai Police also testified in court on Sunday.

"My daughter told me that the accused were kissing on the mouth. Then I spotted them doing so myself. I also saw them touching each other, as they were seated two to three meters away from our table. A number of customers witnessed the scene as well," she said.

On Monday, a restaurant employee told ABC News the couple was not kissing or acting inappropriately, just having an innocent good time.

"They said they were just sitting, laughing like everyone else," said a manager who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

'The managers wouldn't let it happen – we know the culture of the country, and we would not allow this at all.

The couple's lawyer has asked the court to dismiss charges and reduce the fine for drinking (about $270). Charlotte Adams, British a real estate agent visiting Dubai on vacation, and Ayman Najafi, a marketing consultant who lives in this Middle Eastern city, would both be deported after a one-month jail sentence. They are currently free on bail, their passports confiscated ahead of an April 4 court date.

Expats Breaking Dubai's Decency Laws

Residents and short-term visitors have run afoul of Dubai's decency laws in the past, and faced high-profile court cases. In 2008 a British couple was sentenced to three months in jail for having sex on a public beach. Michelle Palmer, 36, and Vince Acors, 34, were arrested by police and fined for intoxication.

In January 2009 the story surfaced of another couple that was forced to marry after being prosecuted for intoxication and sex out of wedlock on New Year's Eve. They were charged after the woman came forward with allegations she had been raped by an employee in her Dubai hotel.

A friend of the couple told ABC News the British Embassy brokered negotiations for their release, and that they are now avoiding Dubai.

The cases have pointed to an ongoing tension between this Arabic city's liberal lifestyle and its conservative values.

Elements of its legal system are based on Islamic law, known as Shariah, though Dubai encouraged visitors and expats to unwind the way they would at home, with a buffet of Western-style entertainment outlets. Bars, nightclubs, and prostitution abound.

"The bedrock of Dubai is an unwritten social contract between the government, its locals and residents where the latter two groups are free to conduct their lives in as liberal or conservative a fashion as they please as long as it doesn't upset Dubai's delicate identity," wrote Emirati social commentator Mishaal Al Gergawi after the New Year's Eve case.

"This balancing act is the essence of Dubai's appeal."