ABU DHABI // The Federal Supreme Court found the Lebanese-American Naji Hamdan guilty yesterday of terrorism-related charges and sentenced him to 18 months in prison and deportation. Hamdan, 43, was arrested by state security at his Dubai home in August 2008 and charged by The State Security Public Prosecution 90 days later. Hamdan was charged with promoting terrorism, participating in the work of a terrorist organisation and funding a terrorist organisation. The charges related to offences committed outside the UAE.
Hamdan left Lebanon at college age to live and study in the US, where he eventually set up a car parts business. He came to the UAE in 2006, settling in Dubai and setting up the same type of business. Prosecutors accused him of visiting Islamic websites for the purpose of promoting violence. They also alleged that he corresponded electronically with the group Ansar al Sunna, a militant Sunni faction in Iraq with links to al Qa'eda.
The Public Prosecution presented Hamdan's signed confession at the trial, but Hamdan pleaded not guilty and said the confession had been coerced. Chief Justice Khalifa al Muhairi did not say on which charge or charges Hamdan had been found guilty. Judges typically announce their verdict and sentence without a full legal explanation or a statement of which charge has been sustained. Under the UAE's terrorism law, a defendant can face up to 15 years for any terrorism-related activity. Hamdan's time in custody will count towards his sentence. He has been held for 14 months and is therefore expected to be released in the coming months. Because he is an American citizen, he is expected to be deported to the US.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which championed his cause in the US, filed a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation on behalf of Hamdan, accusing the bureau of orchestrating his arrest in Abu Dhabi. The FBI has repeatedly denied the allegation. In August, an American judge ruled that he did not have the authority to intervene in Hamdan's trial in the UAE, ruling against the ACLU's claim.