Bail for 'adultery' couple

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THE Foreign Office breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as authorities in the United Arab Emirates agreed to release on bail an unmarried British couple convicted of adultery and sentenced to a year's imprisonment for living together, writes Annika Savill.

Pending the outcome of an appeal against conviction, the releases could defuse a potential diplomatic incident. Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, is due to visit the Emirates next month to brush up Britain's lucrative ties with the federation. The appeal will also be heard next month.

Yvonne Wade and her three children, who were with her in jail, were freed yesterday. British sources said that the authorities had promised to release Peter Wade, a helicopter pilot and the father of her six-week-old baby, this weekend.

The Foreign Office could not confirm claims that Ms Wade's former husband, an oil diver, had reported them to the authorities of Sharjah, which adheres to Islamic Sharia law more strictly than the rest of the Emirates. But a diplomatic source said he thought the authorities 'were presented with the facts in such a way that they could not turn a blind eye'. Sharia law prescribes stoning for adulterers, but this is rarely carried out. Instead they are whipped or imprisoned.

If successful, the appeal will save Britain having to lodge a formal protest with Sharjah's ruler, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed al-Qassimi. 'If we were to circumvent the legal process by jumping down Sultan's throat or something, it may lead to a much bigger problem and result in the two being deported,' a senior diplomatic source said. 'And they would like to stay.'

The Wades - she has taken the name of her partner - must stay in Sharjah until the appeal is heard. Ms Wade's former husband, Ken Campbell, was yesterday on his way to Britain after telling his employers he was taking a few days off.