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No jail for couple convicted of having sex on Dubai beach

Appeals court upholds verdict but suspends the Britons' sentences.

November 26, 2008|Jeffrey Fleishman | Fleishman is a Times staff writer.

CAIRO — Having endured public shame and courtroom prying, a British pair convicted of having sex outside marriage on a Dubai beach had their three-month jail sentence suspended Tuesday.

An appeals court in the United Arab Emirates upheld the guilty verdict but spared Vince Acors, 34, and Michelle Palmer, 36, imprisonment. The defendants paid $272 each for charges involving alcohol consumption in the incident that unfolded July 5 when they left a champagne brunch and were arrested hours later on Jumeirah Beach.

The couple, who admitted kissing but denied having sex, were expected to be deported to Britain. After the court's ruling, Palmer, who was fired from her book publishing job after her arrest, was quoted by reporters as saying, "It just proves our innocence after all the bad stuff that was written. That's it."

Acors and Palmer were convicted in October and quickly became the grist of international headlines and a cautionary tale about Western permissiveness colliding with Islamic values. Dubai is the most liberal of the emirates, but recent pressure from Muslim conservatives has made police more vigilant in combating moral offenses.

Some people vilified Acors and Palmer, others sympathized with them, and many criticized them for slipping into a difficult position in an Arab country.

Hassan Mattar, the couple's lawyer, told reporters it all ended well.

"This is a good result," Mattar said. "This means the law in Dubai is just and shows the judge has a good mind and a good heart.

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jeffrey.fleishman@latimes.com

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