Prosecutors investigating the cases of 60 Islamists have uncovered an organised effort to undermine the Government, with a military wing and active fund-raising operation, authorities said.
The defendants, all belonging to Al Islah, a movement tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, have confessed to numerous plans and details of the group, its operations, and its intention to establish an Islamist government in the UAE, an official said.
The group had a nascent “military” wing that sought to recruit from the ranks of retired military officers and young Emiratis, and was raising funds through investment portfolios run by members.
Funding came from peers across the Arab world, and in one case they collected Dh10 million from Muslim Brotherhood members in neighbouring countries.
Some of those detained had also confessed to capitalising on the Arab Spring to accelerate their plans, relying on web forums and Twitter to hit hot-button topics, raising questions about the legitimacy of the Government.
They also circulated rumours and allegations of corruption among officials.
The detainees are formally charged with violating article 180 of the penal code which bans the formation of any political organisation, establishing an organisation that compromises state security and the principles on which the state is based on, as well as for having connections with foreign bodies to harm the political leadership.
“This has nothing to do with the fact that they are religious preachers or that they are people defending political views or demanding reforms”, the official said.
He noted that prosecutors had also investigated allegations that the men were being tortured in prison and found the rumours untrue.
The strategic goal of the defendants, he said, was to build the group’s presence and influence in several ministries, perhaps even win over ministers heading them and continue building its membership across the country, to consolidate their political influence.
Al Islah, which is closely tied to the Brotherhood, has operated across the country and at one point had a notable presence within the ministries of education, higher education and justice during the 1980s.
In a purge that began in the 1990s, Brotherhood members, particularly in the education sector, were given a choice of either renouncing the group, or finding jobs outside the Education Ministry and refraining from promoting the ideology.
Authorities last year found five men alleged to be members of the group guilty of posing as a threat to state security and of insulting royal family members; the men were subsequently pardoned by the president, Sheikh Khalifa.
Earlier this year, authorities revoked the citizenship of six other members of the group for their involvement in “acts threatening the national security of the UAE through their connection with suspicious regional and international organisations and personalities”.
Then beginning in July, security officials arrested the 60 defendants, widely believed to be the key leadership of al Islah.
The case is expected to come to trial within several months, with the men represented by eight lawyers assigned to defend them.