Welsh air stewardess acquitted in UAE drugs case

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A Welsh air hostess on trial in the United Arab Emirates on drugs charges has been acquitted, the Foreign Office confirmed yesterday.

Katherine Jenkins, 31, from Neath, had been in custody since October 2000, when police in Dubai investigating a drug smuggling gang found 50g of cocaine in her apartment.

Ms Jenkins, who worked for Emirates Airlines, always insisted the cocaine was left in her flat by a member of a drugs ring. She said that when she discovered the drug, she panicked and hid it in a roof space.

Last year, at an earlier trial, a court in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah returned "no verdict", but in the re-trial judgment announced yesterday Ms Jenkins was cleared. Several other people arrested at the same time received lengthy jail sentences under the Gulf state's strict anti-drugs policy.

Speaking from Ms Jenkins' home in Neath, a relative, who did not wish to be named, said her mother, Alvine, was delighted at the news. "Her mother has had the message early this morning," she said. "Everybody is delighted. Nobody knows what's happening next, but we're absolutely delighted."

Campaigners had criticised Ms Jenkins' treatment, saying it was unfair that she should be tried twice for the same offence. Stephen Jakobi, director of Fair Trials Abroad, said the organisation felt "enormous relief" for Ms Jenkins and her family on news of her acquittal.

"Her family is obviously extremely excited and there is tremendous relief. She is very much looking forward to being reunited with her family," he said. "They are over the moon. They are very excited about seeing Katherine and the understanding is that she will come home very quickly."

Mr Jakobi added that he hoped this case would push the authorities in the UAE to reassess their judicial system. He said that what was so bad was not the three months Ms Jenkins spent in Dubai but the 15 months she had spent in Ras al-Khaimah.

Peter Hain, the Foreign Office minister and MP for Neath, who had campaigned for her, praised Ms Jenkins' character. "During this, her father died in tragic circumstances and I can only praise her spirit and resilience," he said. "I've always believed that she was an innocent caught up in this nightmare."

Three Britons who were charged alongside Ms Jenkins ­ Daniel Mallouf, Anna Bartlett and Stacey Simpson ­ remain in jail in the UAE.