Dubai: An Emirati father, convicted of torturing his eight-year-old daughter Wudeema to death, has escaped the death penalty and will instead serve a life sentence.

The Dubai Appeal Court’s three-judge panel on Sunday morning failed to agree on whether the death sentence should be upheld against the 30-year-old Emirati father, Hamad S.

“The court has commuted the death sentence to life in jail against the defendant Hamad,” Presiding Judge Eisa Al Sharif said.

Meanwhile a 28-year-old Emirati woman, Al Onoud A., who prosecutors described as Hamad’s girlfriend and partner in crime, had her life sentence upheld.

The couple (Hamad and Al Onoud) claim to be married, although they were tried for having consensual sex.

The defendants were convicted of locking Wudeema and her younger sister Meera in a flat in Al Warqa area where they beat and tortured the girls.

Wudeema died and her heavily-decomposed body was recovered from a hole in Sharjah’s Al Badayer area in June 2012. Meanwhile Meera sustained ten per cent permanent disability.

“The court has reduced the capital punishment because the three appeal judges didn’t agree unanimously at the death sentence. The accusations remained the same and haven’t been modified,” presiding judge Al Sharif told the press outside the court.

Hamad and Al Onoud were not brought from their detention when the judgement was pronounced.

In an earlier hearing before the appeal court, Hamad created a scene when he said he would not seek an acquittal or ask for his death sentence to be overturned but begged “for the truth to be exposed and justice to be enforced at any cost.”

During his brief argument, he accused his ex-wife of torturing their daughters, Wudeema and her sister Meera, and burning them “to throw the blame” on him.

Hamad alleged that she conspired against him and tried to put Meera under emotional pressure to testify against him.

Hamad and Al Onoud pleaded not guilty to mistreating and torturing the two sisters, keeping them unfed and confining them in the washroom in a locked flat for a period of six months in Al Warqaa.

The father’s court-appointed lawyer, Hamdi Al Sheewi, said his client did not intend to kill Wudeema.

“He confessed that he beat and tortured her because he was disciplining her. May she rest in peace and God bless her soul… the defence does not agree that disciplining someone should go beyond humanity. However he beat her in a form of chastisement and his actions went beyond normality… evidently he did not intend to kill her,” said Al Sheewi.

The lawyer asked presiding judge Al Sharif to modify the charge from torture which led to death to beating which led to death.

“Prosecutors asked for the implementation of the Penal Law’s article 344, according to which my client was handed a capital punishment. According to the aforementioned article, prosecutors said Hamad kidnapped, confined his daughters and deprived them of their freedom… and that was what led to Wudeema’s death. The daughters’ custody was granted to Hamad as per a Sharia court order. Meanwhile we ask the court to prosecute Hamad as per article 339 which mainly tackles the crime of beating which leads to death,” said Al Sheewi.

Prosecutors are expected to appeal Sunday’s judgement before the Cassation Court within the 30-day legal period to do so.