x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

UAE military officers 'disclosed defence information to taxi driver'

Taxi driver in Syria asked them for information on Iranians in UAE, State Security Court told.

ABU DHABI // Five military officers have been jailed for passing defence secrets to a taxi driver in Syria, according to court documents released today.

The five Emiratis were convicted by the State Security Court on November 29. The documents did not disclose the length of the prison sentences, but the maximum term under federal law is three years.

The case is not connected to the announcement on Wednesday that security forces had arrested an alleged terrorist cell of Emirati and Saudi nationals accused of plotting attacks against the UAE and neighbouring countries. They have been referred to the Federal State Security Prosecutor for further investigation.

According to documents in the military secrets case, the taxi driver, Moustafa Al Ahmar, asked the officers to provide him with “information, data and photographs related to their work in the military field”.

He asked about the type of arms and vehicles on which they were trained, their working hours, physical exercise and about “how many Iranians enter the country illegally through the sea”, according to confessions by the officers.

During military training, one of the officers, Rashed Omar Rashed, took photographs of a naval base in Abu Dhabi, a military training field, a military jet, flags of the UAE and other countries and UAE and foreign military personnel.

Mr Al Ahmar met the men in Syria, where they made frequent visits. He developed a “strong relationship” with them and asked for information about their work. The court documents do not say if the officers were offered anything in return.

A report by the department of military security and intelligence presented to the federal Public Prosecution said the information disclosed was of a secret nature known only to members of the armed forces.

The five men were charged by prosecutors on June 9, 2011. They said their confessions had been obtained under duress, and denied the charges. In his verdict, Chief Justice Shehab Al Hammadi said the court was “reassured that the confessions were correct and accurate and, therefore, disregards their recantation because they only wanted to avoid the consequences of the charges and evading justice”.

He ruled that they chose to disclose the information despite knowing they were not allowed to do so.

The court found them guilty and sentenced them in accordance with Article 88 of Federal Code of Criminal Procedure, which requires imprisonment of up to three years.

State Security Court verdicts are final and not subject to appeal.