British mother faces jail in Dubai after being convicted of adultery
28th December 2008
A British mother faces jail in Dubai after being convicted of adultery. Marnie Pearce fears she may never see her two children again but insists she is innocent and that it is her ex-husband who cheated on her. The 40 year-old claims she has been framed by Egyptian Ihab El-Labban so he could win custody of their children. Ms Pearce was found guilty of adultery in a Dubai court last month after being denied the opportunity to represent herself.
She was only allowed to speak briefly when she returned to court on Christmas Day to register an appeal. Under strict Sharia law in Dubai, adultery is punishable by flogging – or more usually jail. Those found guilty can also lose custody rights to their children. Ms Pearce, originally from Bracknell, Berks, has been banned from leaving the Arab state.
‘The way I am being treated is barbaric,’ she said yesterday. ‘I am begging the British Government to step in. I feel I’ve been ignored by the courts because I’m a woman.’
Fighting back tears, she added: ‘There is not a shred of evidence against me, yet I’ve been found guilty. I feel angry and frightened.’
Ms Pearce met her ex-husband 16 years ago when she was working in Oman. They married and had two children Laith, seven and Ziad, three. But the marriage collapsed, Ms Pearce says, after she discovered a love letter sent to her husband by an American woman. ‘He went white, admitted the affair and I chucked him out,’ she claims.
She alleges he then began a vendetta to prove she cheated on him to win custody of their two sons. Describing the moment police raided their family home in Dubai, she says: ‘It was like something out of James Bond. I was having a cup of tea with a colleague’s brother-in-law when the police stormed in. My husband was screaming, ‘You are having an affair – I am going to get the kids.”
Ms Pearce and her friend were handcuffed and locked up. Her passport was seized and she was interrogated about the alleged affair. ‘I kept repeating there had been no affair. I was in shock,’ she said. But her husband later threw her out of the family home and she and her sons moved into a shelter where they contracted meningitis. Then 16 weeks after Ms Pearce’s arrest, she was told by detectives that they had seized five used condoms, men’s underpants and a man’s jacket. But she claims they were planted by her ex-husband.
Ms Pearce is now facing six months in jail followed by deportation and the prospect of never seeing her children again if her appeal fails. She told the Media: ‘If I am sent to prison, I will lose my babies for ever. I can’t bring myself to think about it.’ Her mother, Betty Stevens, 62 said: ‘She has done nothing wrong but is being treated like an animal.’
Mr El-Labban denies having an affair or framing his ex-wife. He added: ‘We had problems for quite a while and we tried to live with things but I decided to take a break for the kids. She then had an affair.’ Bracknell MP Andrew Mackay has now taken up Ms Pearce’s case with the Foreign Office. ‘We can confirm that Marnie Pearce is involved in an ongoing court case in Dubai and we are in touch with her and providing consular assistance. We understand she has been accused and found guilty of adultery,’ a Foreign Office spokesman last night.