A British woman and Irish man accused of engaging in sexual activities in a Dubai taxi pleaded not guilty today, in the latest case of westerners falling foul of the Gulf Arab emirate's decency laws.
If convicted, the pair could face jail and then deportation from the United Arab Emirates, which walks a delicate line between keeping its Muslim identity and maintaining a successful tourism industry.
Rebecca Blake and Conor McRedmond both denied charges of "breach of honour with consent" and committing "an indecent act in a taxi" when they appeared in court.
They pleaded guilty to a third charge related to consumption of alcohol, their lawyer said after the hearing, without elaborating. The judge postponed the next hearing to November 1.
There have been several cases in recent years of westerners accused of violating decency laws in Dubai, the most cosmopolitan of the seven-member United Arab Emirates federation.
In 2008, a British couple was found guilty of engaging in drunken sexual activity out of wedlock and in public on a beach. They were sentenced to three months in prison, followed by deportation, but had their jail terms overturned on appeal.
In 2010, a British couple were sentenced to a month in jail and fined for kissing on the mouth in a restaurant.
Expatriates comprise more than 90% of the UAE's population, attracted by tax-free earnings and year-round sunshine.
Islam bans alcohol for Muslims. In the UAE, non-Muslims can drink at certain hotels and beach bars, where all-you-can-drink brunches heave with revellers every weekend.