Airline crew face jail over sexy texts

DUBAI Wed Mar 17, 2010 10:00am EDT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Two Emirates airlines cabin crew have been ordered jailed for three months in Dubai over sexually explicit text messages, the latest in a string of indecency cases against foreigners, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The pair, an Indian flight attendant and her cabin services supervisor, were convicted of "coercion to commit sin" over the messages and initially sentenced to six months in jail, The National newspaper said on its website, citing court documents.

The sentence was reduced on appeal last week to three months and deportation orders against the pair were lifted, it added. It did not reveal the content of the messages.

Dubai's foreign population has expanded rapidly in recent years as expatriates flocked to the Gulf Arab trade and tourism hub for its tax-free earnings and year-round sunshine.

The changes have challenged the Emirati population, which is now vastly outnumbered by foreigners, raising concern that their emirate's rapid pace of growth is a threat to their social and religious identity in what remains a deeply conservative region.

An Emirates spokeswoman declined to comment on the case as it was still ongoing.

The paper said the case emerged after the flight attendant's husband filed a lawsuit against his wife a year ago accusing her of being in an illicit relationship with her supervisor. It said the couple had been embroiled in a divorce battle since 2007.

The case is the latest decency case against foreigners accused of not respecting local mores.

In a separate case, a British pair caught kissing in public in Dubai is appealing a month-long jail sentence handed down after an Emirati mother complained her child had seen their indiscretion.

The pair, a British man living in Dubai and a female friend, were arrested in November on accusations of kissing and touching each other intimately in public and consuming alcohol, their lawyer said. They were ordered jailed for a month.

In a high-profile case in 2008, a British couple narrowly escaped jail after a court found them guilty of engaging in drunken sexual activity out of wedlock, and for doing so in public on a beach in the emirate.

They were sentenced to three months in prison followed by deportation, but had their jail terms overturned on appeal.

In a separate case this year, a British couple who shared a hotel room managed to escape trial in Dubai for having sex out of wedlock by producing a marriage certificate.

(Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

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