ABU DHABI // A lawyer for three men accused of joining the militant Somali group Al Shabaab said yesterday that there was not enough evidence linking them to the organisation.
Nashwa Al Kubaisy told the State Security Court that evidence linking her clients to the group - sometimes described as an offshoot of Al Qaeda - was merely "bits and pieces from the internet", and that they had not committed any offence under UAE law.
AH and AA, both Sudanese, and MM, a Somali, are accused of joining the group and raising funds.
But Ms Al Kubaisy said they were merely philanthropic businessmen who sent medicine and medical supplies to several countries in Africa. "The evidence in the file does not reach the standards of tangible evidence. It is bits and pieces from the internet - not everything published on the internet is true," she told the court.
"Even if they were members of a political party - the Somali president used to be a member of Al Shabaab - it is not a crime."
Ms Al Kubaisy said the prosecution needed to prove that the men's activities threatened the UAE, but instead all it had shown the court was medical and ambulance bills that "show that the defendants are helping the people of Somalia".
A fourth man, MA, also Sudanese, is accused of allowing AH, his cousin, to stay at his home despite being aware that he was involved in terrorist activities.
His lawyer, Mohammed Al Khazraji, said that UAE law does not apply to the men's alleged crimes because they took place outside the country.
The prosecution case file, he said, only contained proof that medical aid had been provided - aid that was "for humanitarian purposes and not terrorism".
Mr Al Khazraji said there was "no written legal text that criminalises" dealing with Al Shabaab.
"Public prosecution stating it is a terrorist organisation is their opinion, but has there been anything official that bans dealing with them?," asked Mr Al Khazraji. "This is an organisation outside the country and no one knows anything about it.
"It should not be considered a terrorist organisation except with an official text saying so."
Mr Al Khazraji added that MA had let his cousin stay at his home since 2004 - four years before he was accused of joining Al Shabaab.
"Sheltering a terrorist involves hiding him from the authorities. They were not hiding, they were always out in public and went shopping, there is no sheltering there."
The case was adjourned.