UAE sentences 43 Emiratis to life in prison for ‘terror’ links in mass trial

6 Min Read

A court in the United Arab Emirates has handed life sentences to 43 Emiratis for “terrorist” links, state media said on July 10, after a mass trial that was heavily criticized by UN experts and human rights groups.

Government critics and human rights activists were among 84 defendants brought before Abu Dhabi’s Federal Court of Appeal. Most of them have been in prison since a similar trial of 94 people in 2013, according to rights groups.

An Abu Dhabi court has sentenced 43 defendants to life imprisonment for founding, founding and leading a terrorist organization linked to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, the official news agency WAM said.

Ten others received prison sentences of 10 to 15 years, WAM said, with one defendant acquitted and 24 cases declared inadmissible. Details about the remaining cases were not provided.

Defendants can still appeal the verdicts to the Federal Supreme Court.

The trial, which started in December, has been condemned by rights groups and United Nations experts, who accuse the oil-rich Gulf monarchy of cracking down on dissent.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, most suspects have been in prison for more than a decade since the UAE 94 trial, eleven years ago.

But UAE authorities say the latest charges are “materially different” from those in 2013, which did not include allegations of financing a “terrorist organization.”

‘Violent events’

The UAE has not named the 84 suspects, but the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre, a British watchdog, has identified more than 70 people, most of whom are already in custody.

See also  Protests in Bangladesh: Bangladesh Supreme Court scraps most labor quotas that have sparked deadly protests

The latest verdict is a “travesty of justice,” said Joey Shea, HRW’s UAE researcher, calling it “another nail in the coffin for the UAE’s nascent civil society.”

Among those sentenced to life in prison is Emirati academic Nasser bin Ghaith, who has been held since August 2015 over social media posts, Ms Shea said.

Well-known human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, who has been held since 2017, is also likely to be among those convicted, although the details of his sentence remain unclear, Ms. Shea said.

Amnesty International called it a “blatant parody of justice” and alleged violations of due process.

“The trial of 84 Emiratis at once, including 26 prisoners of conscience and known human rights defenders, is a thinly veiled exercise in punishing dissenters,” said Devin Kenney, Amnesty’s UAE researcher.

The UAE has denied any wrongdoing.

WAM said the court had “guaranteed the defendants all their rights”.

According to the report, they tried to “create and recreate violent events” that would have “left dead and wounded in the squares and streets.”

‘Deeply regressive’

The UAE, a federation of seven absolute monarchies, bans criticism of its rulers and any speech deemed to cause or encourage social unrest.

Defamation and verbal and written insults, whether published or private, are crimes punishable by fines and imprisonment.

In 2012, in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East, the UAE launched a wave of arrests and prosecutions against dozens of Emirati dissidents demanding political reforms.

About 60 of the “UAE 94” on trial remain behind bars for alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement banned in the Gulf state.

See also  The death toll from the floods in Indonesia rises to 41, while 17 are missing

In a letter sent to UAE authorities in January, independent UN experts said they were concerned that the latest proceedings against the 84 defendants “reflect a broader pattern of repression of dissent and civil society in the UAE” .

They questioned “alleged irregularities” such as “the use of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to extract coerced confessions”.

Ben Saul, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said the latest charges “relate to the same conduct for which many of these defendants were first tried about a decade ago.”

The trial was a “very regressive step” and a “terrible example of the abuse of counter-terrorism measures against civil society,” he told an expert panel organized by the Geneva Press Club in March.

Last week, HRW said many of the defendants have been held incommunicado for at least a year and have reported abuse, including physical violence, lack of access to medicine, incessantly loud music and forced nudity.

The rich country’s allies, including the United States, Britain and the European Union, must speak out about the “unfair mass trial,” HRW said.

“Emirati authorities have long used their country’s economic and security relationships to avoid criticism of its human rights record, but rarely, if ever, has the silence from their allies been so deafening,” said Ms Shea from HRW.

Share This Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *