Over 40 people given life sentences for ‘terror’ crimes in UAE

A court in the United Arab Emirates has sentenced 43 activists to life in prison after finding them guilty of terrorism offences.

State media reported that the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal found the defendants guilty of “creating a terrorist organisation”.

United Nations experts and human rights groups have harshly criticised the mass trial.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced that more than 80 human rights activists and dissidents, known as the “UAE 84,” have been put on trial.

Last January, the UAE’s attorney general referred the defendants to the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal for charges of “establishing another secret organisation with the intent to commit acts of violence and terrorism on UAE territory”, known as the Justice and Dignity Committee.

He said most of the defendants were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement that has been banned in the UAE as a terrorist organisation since 2014. The Brotherhood’s local branch, Al-Islah Party, is also banned.

According to the state news agency WAMOn Wednesday, the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal “sentenced 43 defendants to life imprisonment for founding, establishing and running a terrorist organisation.”

In addition to the 43 who received life sentences, 10 other defendants were given sentences ranging from 10 to 15 years in prison for “collaborating with Al-Isla” and money laundering, WAM said.

One defendant was acquitted and 24 cases were adjudicated inadmissible, he added.

According to HRW and Amnesty International, most of the defendants have been incarcerated for more than 10 years since being jailed in the “UAE 94” trial in 2013.

Many had already completed their sentences.

But UAE authorities said the latest charges were “substantially different” to those brought in 2013, which did not include allegations of funding a “terrorist organisation”, AFP reported.

According to Amnesty International, the indictment, charges, lawyers and names of the defendants “were kept secret by the government.”

He said the details were only known through “leaks.”

HRW identified three of those given life sentences – Nasser bin Ghaith, Abdulsalam Darwish Al Marzouki and Sultan bin Qaid Al Qasimi – and added that prominent activist Ahmed Mansour was also among the defendants.

Responding to the verdict, Devin Kenny of Amnesty International called on the UAE to “immediately revoke this unlawful sentence” and to release those sentenced.

“This trial is a shameless parody of justice and violates several fundamental principles of law, including the principle that the same person cannot be tried twice for the same crime and that a person cannot be punished retroactively under laws that did not exist at the time of the alleged crime.”

“It is truly tragic that so many activists and human rights defenders remain in prison for decades, denied the opportunity to see their children grow up, simply because they want a better future for the UAE,” said Khalid Ibrahim of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, where Ahmed Mansour is director.

The UAE is one of the Middle East’s wealthiest countries and despite its thriving tech sector and innovation, it remains restrictive on political activity.

The federation of seven emirates, which includes Abu Dhabi and Dubai, has no official opposition party and political parties are banned.

In 2013, around 70 Muslims were sentenced to prison for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.

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