x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Uighurs accused of plotting to bomb Dragonmart say confessions were forced

Muslim Chinese duo charged with being members of a terrorist organisation, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement.

ABU DHABI // Two Chinese men accused of plotting an attack on the DragonMart in Dubai filed nine handwritten pages in a closed court hearing yesterday stating that their signed confession had been coerced. The details of the confession were not released. Court documents released yesterday state that the defendants, MB, 31, and WG, 35, first drew the attention of authorities after wiring Dh50,000 (US$13,600) to China and then funnelling it to Saudi Arabia. The money was to be used to fund the attack, the documents say, although it was not made clear exactly what the suspects were alleged to have planned to purchase.

Prosecutors said the men travelled several times to Saudi Arabia from the UAE as a part of their plan. The suspects said they were travelling for religious reasons. Dubai's DragonMart is the world's largest trading centre for Chinese goods outside mainland China, according to its website. This is the first known case of a suspected terrorist plot inside the UAE. The men are Muslim Uighurs and are charged with being members of a terrorist organisation, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which calls for the creation of a separate homeland for that area's largely Muslim population.

The Uighur presence is highest in China's Xinjiang province, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan and is home to about 21 million people, nine million of whom are Uighurs. Hearings for the two men have been delayed since October because there was no translator for the Uighur dialect. Yesterday, a translator who speaks Uighur translated into Mandarin, and another translated that into Arabic. myoussef@thenational.ae