x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Extremist website inspired men to enforce strict social code through violence

Two Emiratis convicted of terrorism after using blackmail and torture in campaign guided by Saudi-based website Al Hisb.

An extremist website inspired and guided two Emiratis convicted of terrorism to try to enforce a strict social code in Khor Fakkan, according to court documents. In the recent case, which involved seven Emiratis and one Afghan, two defendants were charged with setting up a group that "infringed people's rights and public liberties established by the Constitution".

Prosecutors said they were inspired by the website Al Hisba, a phrase that suggests a public duty to enforce Sharia law outside the courts. Al Hisba, based in Saudi Arabia, publishes news about any successful enforcement of a strict Sharia code in the region and calls for reporting religious offences to the website. It advocates "curbing vice" by force. Rashid Dawood, 26, and Abdullah Hassan, 27, used violence to try to enforce such a code in Khor Fakkan, including blackmail and torture. On August 2008, for example, they found an Emirati woman in the company of two Emirati men on a beach.

Dawood and Hassan took one of the men to a nearby wadi and beat him for three hours. Abdullah then used a knife to cut off his trousers and underwear. Dawood held him down while Hassan took videotaped him. They then threatened to broadcast the video if he reported the incident to police. Another man was kidnapped from outside his house by Hassan, who took him to Dawood's house, then the wadi. A masked man was waiting there and immediately started beating him. Again, they then stripped him of his clothes and videotaped him, and threatened him with blackmail if he contacted police.

In another incident, they beat a Bangladeshi man who worked for their friend, an imam because they found a bottle of whisky with him. Court-appointed experts further recovered videos of from one of their mobile phones showing them torturing a completely naked man. The defendants confessed they tortured the man, claiming he had an illicit relationship with the sister of one of their friends. The two eventually retracted their previous confessions that they visited the websites and downloaded videos, claiming their statements were coerced.