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Issa abuse trial draws to a close

A court in Al Ain is expected to hear closing arguments in the trial of Sheikh Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday, his attorney said yesterday.

ABU DHABI // A court in Al Ain is expected to hear closing arguments in the trial of Sheikh Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday, his attorney said yesterday. Sheikh Issa, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family with no official role, has been charged with "causing physical harm" and "endangering a life" after a video emerged depicting him allegedly abusing an Afghan man who was accused of cheating him.

Sheikh Issa has plead not guilty to the charges, claiming "diminished responsibility" caused by prescription medications that were administered to him at the time, his defence attorney, Habib al Mulla said yesterday. The unprecedented trial at the Al Ain Criminal Court began in late October, with numerous witnesses testifying over the course of several hearings. The judge may offer a verdict following Monday's hearing, or he may ask for further testimony and evidence, Mr al Mulla said.

A guilty verdict could entail a prison term of between one and three years, Mr al Mulla added. An official in the Abu Dhabi Government declined to comment on the case citing the ongoing proceedings. The alleged offence came to light when a former business associate of Sheikh Issa, Bassam Nabulsi, of Houston, Texas, leaked the video to an American television network earlier this year. In the video a man identified as Sheikh Issa is seen taking part in the abuse, with other men observing and helping, including a man wearing the uniform of a security guard. The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department opened a criminal investigation into the case in May.

The defence has argued that the incident was part of an orchestrated effort by Mr Nabulsi and his brother, Ghasan, to drug Sheikh Issa and manipulate events to cause him to carry out the alleged assault and record it in order to blackmail him. The video was released only when Sheikh Issa refused to settle with him, Mr al Mulla said. On the night of the incident, Mr al Mulla said, the Nabulsis asked Mohammed Shah Poor, an Afghan trader, to come to a farm in Al Ain, informed the Sheikh that he had been cheating him, administered him with drugs and "created this scene" with the aim of recording it.

"The Nabulsi brothers controlled the medication of Sheikh Issa for quite a long period," Mr al Mulla said, adding Sheikh Issa was given many different drugs at one time, some of which were banned in the UAE. "Sheikh Issa is saying that he does not recall what is on the tape and he is pleading no liability because he lacked free will at the time that this incident took place." Bassam Nabulsi has been involved in a protracted legal case against Sheikh Issa in the US. Tony Buzbee, his lawyer, was unavailable to comment yesterday.

There is legal precedent for people being found not liable for their actions if they are drugged without their knowledge or will, he said. Sheikh Issa is currently being held in detention in Abu Dhabi. lmorris@thenational.ae

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