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    THREE Australians charged in the United Arab Emirates with drinking alcohol and sexual harassment on a plane are expected to be deported after judges handed two of the men suspended sentences and acquitted the third last night, said a spokeswoman for the UAE airline, Etihad.

    Mining executives Jeremy Snaith and William Sargent were in custody near Abu Dhabi facing drug, sexual harassment and intoxication charges.

    The third Australian, David Evans, was charged with sexual harassment, indecent exposure and intoxication, but was released on bail.

    The trio appeared in Abu Dhabi court, where judges last night found Mr Snaith and Mr Evans guilty, giving the men three-month and one-year suspended sentences respectively.

    Mr Sargent has been acquitted of all charges.

    The three men are expected to be deported within the next 24 hours.

    Ross Hill, the Sydney-based solicitor acting for Mr Snaith and Mr Evans as well as their friend Mr Sargent, said yesterday the three flight attendants at the centre of the sexual misconduct allegations had waived their rights to privately prosecute the matter.

    It has been five weeks since the three were arrested after they disembarked from a flight on the UAE national carrier, Etihad, while travelling for business purposes.

    The three men appeared in court at the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi, where the hearing was conducted in Arabic.

    The trio had faced 15 years in jail and a public flogging, the Seven Network reported last night. Mr Snaith and Mr Evans are non-executive directors of the Australian mining group Jupiter Mines.


    Businessmen booted out of UAE today
    THREE Australian businessmen will be booted out of the United Arab Emirates today after a nightmare six-week stay which led to their trial on sexual harassment and intoxication charges.
    Lawyer Ross Hill rejected allegations that the three men had been drunk and disorderly during their flight into the country or that they sexually harassed a flight attendant.

    They had been tested for alcohol consumption and readings were negative, he said.

    But he did admit there had been an argument aboard the Etihad Airlines flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi on April 27.

    Businessmen Jeremy Snaith and William Sargent have been in custody near Abu Dhabi facing drug, sexual harassment and intoxication charges.

    The third Australian, David Evans, was charged with sexual harassment, indecent exposure and intoxication but was released on bail.

    The three first-class passengers were arrested after getting off the Etihad flight from Sydney.

    Snaith yesterday was handed a six-month suspended sentence, while Evans received a one-year suspended sentence.

    Mr Sargent was acquitted of all charges.

    Mr Hill said they were to be deported.

    "They should be out of the country within 24 hours. We are very hopeful that that is the timeframe, but things never quite work as you expect in these countries. They are certainly free to go," Mr Hill told ABC radio.

    Mr Hill said a row between the men and staff broke out after a series of electrical and mechanical problems.

    He said the air conditioning wasn't working properly in the first class cabin and the men were told they couldn't use their laptops.

    "The service was bad, there was not enough food and there were problems with their refrigeration," he said.

    "That culminated in a rather extensive argument between several passengers and the cabin staff.

    Mr Hill said the claim of sexual harassment against Evans related to him touching the arm of an attendant.

    He said Snaith also was fined an unspecified sum for drinking some warm champagne served by the airline.

    "Everyone be warned - don't fly Etihad unless you have a permit to drink alcohol, because if you don't and you have cross words with somebody you could end up in exactly the same position," he said.

    "There was no alcohol factor involved. There was a whole lot of personality factors involved. They are the sort of issues we will be addressing, backed by irrefutable evidence, when we are out of here."

    Update: 6 June 2007

    The case of three Australians charged with drunken, lewd behaviour aboard a first class flight to the Middle East is set to move to a Sydney courtroom.

    While businessmen Jeremy Snaith and David Evans were due to be flown to Bangkok early this morning after being convicted in an Abu Dhabi court of offensive behaviour and given suspended prison sentences, their lawyer, Ross Hill, is preparing to sue the airline, Etihad, for malicious prosecution and unlawful detention.

    Mr Hill says his clients are not only innocent of the charges, which included being drunk, lewd and even naked in the first-class cabin, but have spent a month in a desert prison eating camel, at least in Snaith's case, and have suffered business losses.

    But like everything else in this case the details are unclear. Media reports from the United Arab Emirates yesterday claimed Snaith returned a positive drug sample with traces of cocaine and hashish. Mr Hill rejects this and insists the samples were switched and came back from the laboratory with a different exhibit number. Instead he says Snaith was convicted by three judges of using offensive language, for which he received a six month suspended sentence, and fined $330 for being a non-Muslim drinking without a permit. "No-one is denying he had a drink but it was warm champagne served by the airline," Mr Hill said.

    Evans was convicted of using offensive language and touching a cabin crew member on the arm for which he received a 12-month suspended sentence. His alcohol and drug tests, taken when he got off the flight, returned negative.

    The third man, William Sergent, was cleared and has flown on to Edinburgh, where he was originally headed on April 27 when he was arrested and thrown into a desert prison for testing positive to the prescription drug he takes to help him sleep.

    Mr Hill said he argued the court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the drug charges against Snaith. "These Arabic newspapers are getting their information from the police officers who laid the charges and would be rather embarrassed by the way it turned out," he said.

    "It was clear on the prosecutor's own brief that there was a problem with the test results. It was someone else's specimen which came back from the lab. It had a different exhibit number."

    Mr Hill said the men would prefer to appeal against the convictions but that would mean staying in prison for another month. "It's a hard balance for them - stay another month in prison or cop it on the chin and get out of there."

    He insisted all the alcohol tests came back negative, which contradicts the airline's version that the men were drinking heavily from their duty free purchases.

    "We don't blame the authorities. They were doing their job. We blame Etihad."

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