Two-month prison ordeal ends for woman who took painkiller

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The Independent Online

A British woman threatened with up to four years in a Dubai jail for having traces of painkiller in her system has been acquitted.

A British woman threatened with up to four years in a Dubai jail for having traces of painkiller in her system has been acquitted.

Tracy Wilkinson, who spent two months in "unbearable conditions" in custody, is hoping she will be free to leave the country as early as today.

The 44-year-old sports osteopath from Balcombe in West Sussex was arrested in March as she boarded a flight home because of an irregularity in her passport.

Traces of the painkiller codeine and the sedative temazepam were found in a urine sample. While codeine is common in over-the-counter medicines such as Nurofen Plus, it is forbidden in the UAE. The presence of illegal drugs in the body amounts to possession under the country's strict drug laws. A hearing in the emirate yesterday, however, heard that Mrs Wilkinson had been acquitted of all charges.

"It's wonderful news. They now need to go to the prosecutor's office to see whether there's any chance that they may waive the 15-day cooling-off period [during which time they have the opportunity to appeal]," Robin Wilkinson, her husband, explained.

The 50-year-old retired police officer added: "We're hoping that tomorrow ... she'll be able to get her passport back and be home as soon as possible. She's very pleased and relieved but she won't be fully relieved until she's back on home soil."

Ms Wilkinson, who has a teenage son and daughter, took the medication before she flew to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after being prescribed them by her GP in the UK. The GP provided the Dubai authorities with written evidence several weeks ago, explained the campaign group Fair Trials Abroad.

During a court hearing on Saturday official medical records also revealed she had been administered the drugs by a police doctor at Dubai airport when she became agitated about a problem with her visa, Stephen Jakobi, a Fair Trials spokesman, said. She spent nearly eight weeks in prison before being released on bail last Saturday. Mr Jakobi said it was unclear whether she was acquitted because the authorities accepted she was prescribed the drugs by her GP for back problems following a car accident, or because they had discovered a UAE police doctor had given her them.

Mr Jakobi said: "I wasn't in court and neither was Tracy so I can't get first-hand confirmation of what one it was. My guess is they will take the first ... they're going to use the one that looks best for Dubai."

He added that Ms Wilkinson's lawyer had suggested that she take further legal action, but it was the "last thing on her mind".