13/11/2013 07:33 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Emirati Fireman on Trial for a 'Gay' Handshake

An Emirati man has gone on trial accused of insulting a colleague with a "gay" handshake, on Tuesday.

Dubai Court of Misdemeanors was told a 39-year-old Emirati man shook "the victim's" palm whilst tingling it with his middle finger.

The court was also told by the prosecution that "the gesture was insulting and insinuated the recipient was homosexual."

The defendant denied charges of insulting the fellow fireman, threatening him and committing an "indecent act" by shaking his hand in a "perverted way".

Prosecutors alleged that the defendant was known to mock and insult the 30-year-old plaintiff in front of colleagues at the station where they worked for Dubai Civil Defense.

The plaintiff stated in court: "He always said in front of others that I'm gay. One day he shook my hand in a perverted way by rubbing his middle finger on my palm while shaking hands."

The "victim" filed a complaint with the management that resulted in the defendant given a warning.

However, the plaintiff said he felt this was not a harsh enough measure and therefore filed a complaint with the police.

"I was transferred to another station and then the defendant became head of the old station. He asked me to come back and said if I didn't he would hurt me," the "victim" added.

The Emirati defendant told the court that his colleague had lodged the case because he had a grudge against him: "He doesn't have any evidence against me.

"He and other men were transferred to other stations and they didn't like it so they complained about me.

"I never gave him a perverted handshake." The case was adjourned.

The United Arab Emirates has strict federal laws regarding homosexuality;

Article 354 of the Federal Penal Code states, "Whoever commits rape on a female or sodomy with a male shall be punished by death."

In addition, each Emirate has their own specific laws, homosexuality is illegal in the Emirate of Dubai; Article 177 of the penal code imposes up to 10 years in prison for consensual gay sex, although it is not strictly enforced.

Commenting on the case, Abdulla, the chair of UAE LGBT advocacy group, told me: "If this case goes any further it has the potential of setting a dangerous precedent; It is inviting misuse by other claimants who are simply against homosexuality, causing a witch hunt against an already prosecuted minority group.

"Whatever next? 'He looked at me in a funny way, therefore he is gay? And must be punished'?

"Or should we enact a law banning handshakes that will lead to homosexuality?

"Not only is this case ludicrous, but it is also an affront to the justice system, it jeopardizes its integrity, surely our courts have other pressing issues on their hands - no pun intended."

Watch a recent video campaign of the UAE LGBT advocacy group here: