File photo
File photo

ABU DHABI: More than 65 suspects accused of plotting a coup in the United Arab Emirates received prison sentences of up to 15 years on Tuesday in a mass trial that underscored the widening crackdowns on perceived Arab Spring-inspired dissent across the entire Gulf Arab region.

Rights groups have accused the UAE of widespread violations including jailhouse abuses against the 94 suspects on trial. The suspects included teachers, lawyers and even the cousin of one of the UAE's rulers.

Authorities have rejected the claims and have moved ahead with further arrests sweeps targeting suspected groups linked to networks such as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

The UAE — which allows no political parties — has not faced any street protests or direct pressures since the Arab Spring uprisings began in the region more than two years ago.

But Western-backed officials have turned their attention to suspected Islamist cells and online activists who have called for a greater public voice in the tightly controlled country.

Prominent rights activist Ahmed Mansoor — who was jailed in some of the first UAE crackdowns after the Arab Spring — said prison terms of 15 years were given to eight suspects tried in absentia.

Ten-year sentences were handed to 60 others, including Sheikh Sultan bin Kayed al-Qasimi, who was head of a group known as al-Islah, or Reform. He is a cousin of the ruler in Ras al-Khaimah, the northernmost of the UAE's seven emirates.

At least 26 of the suspects were acquitted, Mansoor said.

Security was tight around the court Tuesday with many foreign journalists, family members and observers blocked from the session. The Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National reported that chants of ''Allahu Akbar,'' or God is Great, came from defendants and some relatives as the verdicts were read.

Mansoor said at least two brothers of the suspects were detained hours before the verdicts were handed down, reflecting wider trends across the Gulf as leaders attempt to quash any challenges to their rule.

Dozens of people have been jailed across the Gulf for blog posts and Twitter messages deemed offensive to rulers. Authorities across the Gulf also have claimed to have dismantled alleged espionage rings — some accused of links to rival Iran or its proxy Hezbollah.

But the UAE has been the most aggressive in moving against suspected threats from Islamist groups.

Last month, UAE officials said they plan another high-profile trial against 30 Egyptian and UAE suspects for alleged coup plots linked to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. The case raised tensions with the Brotherhood-led government of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi who is now under extreme pressure at home from protesters and military officials calling for him to step down.

In the Emirates' case against the 94 suspects, prosecutors claimed that the group al-Islah — which was headed by the ruler's cousin al-Qasimi — was influenced by Muslim Brotherhood ideology to oppose the Western-oriented system in the UAE.

The suspects rejected the claims, saying the group only supported Islamic viewpoints and conducted needed social outreach in poorer areas of the country beyond the skylines of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Al-Islah has operated openly for decades in the UAE under the tactic agreement that members would not get involved in political affairs.

In London, the director of the Emirates Center for Human Rights said the aim of the trial was to ''silence political activists and intimidate others who may support democratic reforms''.

''Allegations of torture remain without investigation and numerous fair trial standards have been violated,'' said Rori Donaghy.

''UAE authorities must quash these verdicts, release these individuals against whom they have presented no credible evidence and investigate the allegations of torture that have been made,'' Donaghy added.

Updated Jul 02, 2013 02:41pm

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Comments (4) (Closed)


Aftab Kenneth Wilson
Jul 02, 2013 04:16pm

I think all member states of UAE should be thankful to the rulers of Abu Dhabi and their family members for helping them in all out way. There was no need for anyone from Al Qasami family to become part of this conspiracy. Ras el Khaima and Sharjah are totally looked after by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. I personally know that there is not even a single person in whole emirate who is not looked after whatever the need may be. Very unfortunate if some are not happy and are plotting some unhealthy activities. All locals should thank The Most High who has blessed their country with so many resources.

vallilakhani
Jul 02, 2013 07:48pm

almighty give pece all muslim world

Alfred Brahmi
Jul 02, 2013 10:24pm

@Aftab Kenneth Wilson: You will get everything if you are in jail or become a slave. Human beings should have fundamental rights like freedom of speech, right to justice, right against indiscrimination, right to equality.

raja a majid
Jul 03, 2013 02:44pm

Hi.you should be greatfull to your rulers they given you a wonderful Uae. they have also provided 5.5 million forign workers with jobs who in support there greater familys back home aproximatly 500 million people world wide and look around what fanatics have done nothing.i live in the uk. i also agree with first view.in 42 years they have wonders in uae.