x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Court reveals how Emirati families raised cash for Taliban

Hundreds of thousands of dirhams were raised by several families in Khor Fakkan.

Details of a home-grown terrorist network were released in court records by the Federal Supreme Court, outlining how hundreds of thousands of dirhams were raised by several families in Khor Fakkan, filtered through an agent in Al Ain and then funnelled to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Five Emirati men and one Afghan, all from Khor Fakkan, were found guilty of various terrorism charges in April by the country's State Security Court, and two other Emiratis were acquitted. The verdicts cannot be appealed.

The six convicted were arrested in a major police raid in 2008. According to previous court hearings, 21 men were arrested during the raid. They were held for the 90 days that the law allows. Charges against 13 were dropped. All of the defendants, who worshipped at the same mosque in Khor Fakkan, were eventually released on bail. According to the court documents, Rashid Dawood, 26, and Abdullah Hassan were guilty of "promoting jihadi groups" as well as distributing military training videos. They were both sentenced to one year in jail for their membership in a terrorist organisation they set up.

All of the six defendants were sentenced to three years in prison for financially supporting a terrorist organisation. The court found that members of the group were seeking opportunities to "support" jihad in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. State security investigators submitted evidence to show that they had visited jihadi websites. Dawood, Hassan, and two other defendants, Badr al Mansouri and Marawan al Naqbi, were found guilty of giving approximately Dh200,000 (US$54,450) to the Afghan defendant, Abdul Wahab Sultani, 31. Court records show that Sultani passed the funds to another Afghan in Al Ain, referred to in the documents as MS.

Although MS was not charged in the case, the court found that he provided Dh40,000, through electronic bank transfers, to an account in Afghanistan. He personally delivered the remainder of the money to the Taliban during a visit to Afghanistan, the documents said. Sultani was sentenced to three years in jail followed by deportation. The court documents did not identify the recipient in Afghanistan nor state whether formal charges against MS were filed. His whereabouts are not known.

All of the defendants claimed that they did not know that the money was going to a terrorist organisation. Two of them, YM and SA, were acquitted despite confessing to downloading material and spreading news of "jihad" on a website known as Ana Muslim (I am Muslim). The website publishes news about al Qa'eda and Taliban activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. During the 16-month trial, the men were taken to the court under heavy security. The prosecution presented signed confessions of all the defendants pleading guilty to the charges.

However, they all retracted the confessions, claiming that they had been coerced into making them. They testified that they had been beaten, kept from prayer, held in solitary confinement, blindfolded and threatened. The court acknowledged that the men had been beaten while in state custody. A state security agent testified in court that the men had been blindfolded during questioning, but added that the blindfolds were necessary to protect the identity of the interrogators.

According to the documents, the men said the confessions were dictated by security agents who "threatened to sexually abuse them or a family member". @Email:myoussef@thenational.ae