The Camel Sale Murder

In the United Arab Emirates camels are serious business. Deadly serious.

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Gabe Kahn.,

Camel kissing man
Camel kissing man
David Dennis: Flickr/Wikimedia Commons

According to Gulf News a shepherd arraigned in Dubai on Wednesday claimed he was defending himself and didn't intend to kill his cousin when they quarreled over buying and selling camels.

Prosecutors accused the 24-year-old Sudanese shepherd of premeditated murder of his cousin by stabbing him twice in his chest.

"Yes I killed him," the shepherd said when he first appeared before the Dubai Court of First Instance.

"Are you saying you killed him? Did you mean to kill him or you had a fight over selling and buying camels? Isn't he your cousin?" Presiding Judge Maher Salama Al Mahdi asked.

The defendant answered, "We had a fight over the camels. I didn't mean to kill him… but he pushed me and I fell down on the ground. Then I stood up and defended myself. Then whatever happened… happened."

Another Sudanese shepherd who witnessed the incident said, "As soon as I saw them fighting, I rushed to the spot to stop them from fighting. When I reached the site, it was too late… [the victim] was down on the ground."

"Meanwhile [the accused] stood there with a knife in his hand," the witness continued. "The victim was holding his belly as he bled severely. I put his head on a small rock while he was taking his dying breaths. Our friend [another shepherd], came and kept hold of the defendant and took the knife away from his hands."

The court will assign a lawyer to defend the suspect when it reconvenes on February 22.

The Camel Sales Murder is not the only camel-related tempest to hit Dubai, where camel racing is a popular sport and the animals have both iconic status and protections in law.

In August 2011 a triple vehicular camelcide occurred when an Asian couple headed to the airport careened into several camels on the road.  The couple was detained for killing the camels, colloquially known as "The Ship of the Desert," a crime that carries hefty fines in the UAE.

Early in 2011 the deaths of a score of camels resulted in a protracted investigation by Dubai authorities, who concluded their owner had used improperly diluted anti-pest ointments on them. He faced both fines and charges of criminal negligence.

The camel poisoning investigation received significant press coverage due to a wave of some 2,000 mysterious camel deaths in 2007. Initially attributed to disease from Saudi Arabia, authorities ultimately concluded that poisoning was the likely cause.