x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Al Qaeda doesn’t need the help of a 22-year-old, defence lawyers tell UAE terror cell trial

The lawyer defending one of nine men accused of operating a terror cell in the UAE has asked if it were plausible that a 22-year-old could be a vital part of its activities in the UAE.

ABU DHABI // Al Qaeda does not need youngsters to help spread its ideas, the Federal Supreme Court was told on Tuesday.

The lawyer defending one of nine men accused of operating a terror cell in the UAE has asked if it were plausible that a 22-year-old could be a vital part of its activities in the UAE.

“Is it possible such a group, known for its terrorist acts not even the biggest country in the world could manage, would require help from a youngster?” asked Yousef Al Ali, one of the defence team.

Nine men – from Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Tunisia – are on trial accused of running an Al Qaeda cell in the UAE.

They are accused of recruiting and raising funds for Jabhat Al Nusra, an Islamist group fighting the regime of Bashar Al Assad in Syria, spreading the group’s goals on the internet, recruiting for it and plotting to bomb UAE landmarks.

Mr Al Ali represents B G, the youngest of the defendants, and said the men were arrested before Jabhat Al Nusra became internationally designated a terrorist group.

One of the nine, R A, is being tried in his absence.

Defence lawyer Ali Al Mannaei said his client, Y Q, lent his laptop to R A, who allegedly downloaded images showing how to make bombs, weapons, explosive belts and rockets.

Mr Al Mannaei said R A was the one who should be questioned, not his client. He said that the case files presented by officers from State Security did not prove his client had raised money or transferred any amounts to the Islamists here or in Syria.

“Where are the amounts? What are they and who did they go to?” Mr Al Mannaei said.

“There is no proof about the amounts reaching a foreign country.”

A third lawyer, Khalid Fakhro, said there was no clear evidence that could convict his client.

Mr Fakhro disputed evidence from T N, an officer from State Security, who gave evidence that claimed his client was attending meetings to discuss jihad.

“These meetings were actually Islamic seminars, given in a public mosque, which many people attended,” he said.

Mr Fakhro also said the laptops and mobile phones confiscated by investigators had Islamic videos and recordings.

But this did not mean his client was a criminal, he said.

“Such videos are found all over the internet,” Mr Fakhro said.

“He was watching videos that were available on YouTube, like a million other videos.”

The three lawyers called for their clients to be cleared.

Eight of the nine were in court yesterday, along with some of their relatives and a representative from the Tunisian Embassy.

All deny the charges.

The case was adjourned until June 23, when the verdict is scheduled to be announced.

aalkhoori@thenational.ae