x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 September 2017

UAE sedition trial: Final addresses for the 94 accused as court sets date for verdict

Lawyers for the 94 Emiratis renewed calls for their clients to be acquitted and criticised the media for its coverage of the case.

ABU DHABI // Lawyers for the 94 Emiratis accused of sedition made their final addresses to the State Security Court yesterday.

They renewed calls for their clients to be acquitted, repeated allegations that case files had been tampered with while noting that they had no access to them, and criticised the media for its coverage of the case.

Jassim Al Naqbi, who represents nine of the accused, said his clients were "good people" who posed a threat to neither the security services nor the country.

Mr Al Naqbi claimed the only threat to the peace of the state was the court case and media coverage of the trial.

"To the media, we should stick together to blow out the fire of upheaval, for you are the tongue, voice and pen of the people to the people," he said. "So let us try to fix the issue, as it is in your hands."

He also argued that the treatment of some of the defendants could be considered "torture" as many of them had spent more than four months in solitary confinement.

Mr Al Naqbi said the prosecution had not properly scrutinised the accusations against the defendants.

"Any piece of information has the possibility of being right or wrong, and the prosecution took that information without enough thought or investigation," he said.

"Did the prosecution make sure of their information before ordering the arrest of more than 80 people?"

He concluded: "Do not falsify two testimonies: a man's tear, and a woman's heart. All women did not cry but spoke from their hearts. Believe them. And we saw men weeping in this court over their loyalty, so believe them."

Abdulhameed Al Kumaiti, who represents 86 defendants, asked the court to thoroughly investigate whether case files had been tampered with. Judge Al Hajeri said the court would scrutinise the files.

Mr Al Kumaiti also complained that his clients had not been given access to the files detailing the case against them and that he had been prevented from seeing the accused for months at a time.

He then turned his criticisms to the media, saying that he had originally demanded that no news be published about the case. Judge Al Hajeri dismissed his complaint.

"We have free media in the country and we respect them," he said. "We gave them the conditions in which they can report and you know about them.

"There is no need to talk about this. And if an individual wishes to state anything, that will not affect the court's decision."

Mr Al Kumaiti said the accused were being defamed on social-media websites and that he was sure the person responsible was "right here in this court room".

He concluded by demanding that his clients' assets be unfrozen, and said the defendants' vast knowledge could be used to start schools and universities.

Ali Al Haddad, who represents one defendant, said his client was innocent as he had given up his membership of Al Islah - which prosecutors say is an illegal organisation plotting to overthrow the state - years ago.

"The only reason there were secret meetings in his house was that his brother AH [another defendant] had invited his guests to his house," the lawyer said.

"And if prosecutors had done their investigations correctly, he wouldn't be here in court."

A verdict in the trial has been scheduled for July 2.

aalkhoori@thenational.ae