x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Iranian people-smugglers 'a security threat', court told

Iranian fishermen accused of smuggling countrymen into RAK on their dhow for Dh110 are example of 'ongoing security threat', court hears.

ABU DHABI // Two Iranians accused of smuggling two of their countrymen into Ras al Khaimah on their dhow for Dh110 (US$30) are an example of an ongoing security threat, the Federal Supreme Court heard yesterday. The two dhow operators, who say they are fishermen, were brought before a state security court in the capital, where they face charges of human smuggling and entering the UAE illegally.

Prosecutors said the dhow operators admitted to taking money to transport the two men. A federal prosecutor said the incident is not isolated and is of great concern to the state. AA and BA, who are brothers, told the court yesterday that their intention on January 6 was to drop off the men at Abu Musa Island, which is permitted for Iranians. They said the dhow veered off course because of a storm.

"Our mission was to deliver the two men to a ship [on the shores] of Abu Musa and it was not our intention to enter the country," AA testified yesterday. Abu Musa is approximately 75km from the northern coast of the UAE. Both Iran and the UAE claim the island. The men said in court they did not know the people who they were accused of smuggling. They were arrested by Coastguard officers when they landed at Ras al Khaimah.

Federal prosecutors said the brothers created the story. The two men who officials said were smuggled are facing immigration charges in a separate court hearing. The public prosecution did not present a reason why they were being smuggled into the country. AA and BA said a third party talked to them on the phone and gave them directions to a location near Abu Musa. They maintained they did not know the final destination because they were told another ship would be waiting for them.

Prosecutors, however, said the men were operating a smuggling ring to bring people illegally into the country under the cover of being fishermen. The judge will issue a verdict on April 17. myoussef@thenational.ae