Dubai: Eight men allegedly started a fire at Al Rifaa Police Station all because they were prohibited from smoking.
Prosecutors charged the defendants, five Emiratis, a Sri Lankan, an Iranian and a Pakistani with forming a gang of arsonists inside the detention centre starting a deliberate fire, endangering the lives of detainees and damaging property worth Dh11,000,
The defendants are aged between 20 and 41.
Seven of the suspects pleaded not guilty before the Dubai Court of First Instance. The eldest suspect, 41-year-old Emirati S.J., failed to appear in court.
"No, that did not happen at all," said one of the suspects, 32-year-old Emirati D.S., when he defended himself before Presiding Judge Mohammad Majed Mohammad.
A Sudanese policeman testified that the suspects started the fire because their demands to be allowed to smoke cigarettes were not approved.
"They held a hunger strike until approving their demands, which were to be permitted to smoke and use the phone until 2am daily. During my shift, I noticed that surveillance cameras were being covered by newspapers. Immediately I informed the duty officer … and I saw the fire coming out from the detention," the policeman claimed to prosecutors.
A Pakistani detainee claimed he witnessed the incident and spotted one of the defendants carrying a battery and a wire used to start the fire. He claimed that when smoke engulfed the detention, they were taken out to the front yard.
The Sri Lankan defendant, H.L., testified that D.S. and another Emirati defendant masterminded and executed the arson.
"They forced all the detainees to join a food strike until the management allowed smoking inside. I even spotted D.S. putting toothpaste on the lenses of surveillance cameras. For three days the management didn't allow smoking, thereafter the fire was started … we saw smoke coming out from the restaurant's door," H.L. claimed.
Another witness alleged that D.S. asked him to go to the front yard then he saw the smoke coming out after 30 seconds. He claimed that the suspects covered the surveillance cameras with newspapers.
A witness also confirmed that the defendants started the fire.
The court reconvenes on September 12.