The Dubai Court of Appeal upheld a six-month suspended jail term against the 59-year-old French engineer, D.M., and convicted him of flashing his middle finger in the faces of two Emirati policemen while driving on Business Bay Bridge.
Yes, indeed, giving someone the finger or swearing at them is a criminal offense in the UAE.
Although he pleaded not guilty, the Frenchman also faces deportation. Chalking it up to cultural differences, his lawyer Hussain Al Jazeri told Judge Rifaat Tolba Othman during the trial:
"Out in Europe and several Western countries, it's an Anglo-Saxon habit that someone flashes his middle finger unlike in our culture… where it is an act punishable by law. The two cultures differ, whereby when someone flashes his finger in the West he/she has to raise his elbow then flip up his finger.
"In the West it is a normal reaction. Here it's only flipping up the finger. My client, D.M., did not flash his finger. The claimants misunderstood his hand sign. He is very well educated and enjoys good behaviour. His social status does not permit him to act this way."
The story goes, at least according to the policemen:
"We were driving a civilian police pick-up on Al Khail Road. Suddenly the suspect's car jumped into our lane in a reckless way… I overtook him from the left meanwhile my colleague showed him his police ID then asked him to pull over. When he flashed his middle finger, we reported the matter to the Operation Room," said one of the policemen.
Al Jazeri explained the story from his client's perspective:
"When the pick-up driver signalled for him to pull over, he was astonished. The pick-up did not have any sign that it was a police car. Then the passenger showed him something like a walkie-talkie. My client could not look at the other car because he was driving on a highway. Had he looked left or right, he might have caused an accident.
"He moved his hand but he didn't flash his finger… his social and academic background does not allow him to stoop to such offensive behaviour."
The Frenchman's other lawyer, Obaid Ali Obaid, asked for the case to be dismissed because it would have been impossible for the policemen to see the gesture:
"How could they have seen him flashing his right-hand finger… supposedly he did, but he should have flashed his left-hand finger because they drove to his left."
His lawyers have 27 days to file another appeal, but he'll probably be deported. He should be thankful. A free trip home to civilization.