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Wed 6 Aug 2008 07:06 AM

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Confusion over Saudi judge arrest claims

Justice Ministry investigates reports that judge was arrested by police in Dubai on drugs charges.

The Saudi justice ministry said late on Tuesday it was investigating a report that a Saudi judge was arrested in Dubai on drugs charges but insisted it had not even heard of the detained man's name.

The Khaleej Times quoted a Dubai police source as saying that the judge Hamad Salim bin Naif, who served as head of an Islamic court, had been arrested in the Gulf emirate on charges of possessing and using drugs.

"The ministry stated that it has no information about the report published in the Emirati newspaper Khaleej Times and quoted by Agence France Presse and then internet sites about the Dubai police's arrest of a Saudi judge," the official SPA news agency said.

The ministry, in its first official reaction to the report, said that "none of the judges affiliated to the justice ministry has the name mentioned in this report," according to SPA.

But the ministry added that it was "undertaking contacts with the sides concerned to ascertain the truth" and would make the result public.

The Khaleej Times report said Hamad Salim bin Naif, who served as head of a sharia (Islamic law) court in Saudi Arabia, was arrested along with his Moroccan wife after police raided their room in a Dubai hotel on Friday and found four grams of hashish in his possession.

The suspect confessed that he and his wife take drugs and said he brought the confiscated hashish from Saudi Arabia for their personal use, the English-language newspaper reported.

Sharia courts in Saudi Arabia impose tough penalties for drug-related charges, and drug trafficking is punishable by death in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a member, also imposes severe penalties for all drug-related offences. Four years in prison is the usual sentence for possession while trafficking carries the death penalty.

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