Calls for UAE to open Islamist trial

2013-04-03 20:32
(Picture: Shutterstock [])

(Picture: Shutterstock [])

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Dubai - Seven international human rights groups on Wednesday criticised a "secret" trial in the United Arab Emirates of 94 Islamist dissidents, saying refusal to open it up to the public was suspect.

The groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), said refusal by authorities to bar even relatives of the defendants from attending court proceedings violates fair trial rights.

"Preventing independent monitors and family members from entering the court only increases the suspicions as to why the authorities need to hide what is being said and done inside," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW regional director.

"If the UAE authorities can present admissible and credible evidence that these defendants have committed crimes, why would they shroud the proceedings in secrecy," she asked.

The statement also pointed to the arrest of Abdullah al-Hadidi, the son of one of the defendants, who was detained on 21 March on charges of "publishing in bad faith false details of a public trial via the internet."

Defendants' relatives were allowed to attend hearings when the trial opened on 4 March, but authorities announced on 20 March they would stop letting them into the courtroom.

"The detention of Abdullah al-Hadidi appears to be an escalation of the authorities' attempts to obstruct independent scrutiny of the trial," the statement said.

The watchdogs, who also include Arab rights groups, also urged UAE authorities to investigate "allegations of torture" made by the defendants, whom they describe as "critics of the government”.

Group linked to Muslim Brotherhood

Prosecutors say the accused are linked to the Al-Islah group, which has ties with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Attorney General Salem Kobaish has said they would be tried for "having created and led a movement aimed at opposing the basic foundations on which the state's political system is built and at seizing power”.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty, and the next hearing is set for 16 April at the state security court in Abu Dhabi.

According to Wednesday's statement, eight of the defendants - who include women - are being tried in absentia and all of them face sentences of up to 15 years.

It said detainees include prominent human rights lawyers Mohammed al-Roken and Mohammed al-Mansoori, as well as judges, lawyers, teachers and student leaders.

The trial is the largest in the history of the UAE, which has not seen any of the widespread pro-reform protests that have swept other Arab countries, although authorities have stepped up a crackdown on dissent and calls for democratic reform.

Read more on:    amnesty international  |  hrw  |  uae  |  human rights

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