x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Defence presents case at Hamdan trial

Hearing into terrorism charges against Lebanese-American man held in private at Federal Supreme Court.

ABU DHABI // The Federal Supreme Court yesterday held the second hearing in the trial of Naji Hamdan, a Lebanese-American accused of involvement in terrorism, in a closed session in which the defence presented its case. Mr Hamdan, 43, is accused by the State Security Public Prosecution of promoting terrorism, participating in the work of a terrorist organisation and funding a terrorist organisation. None of the alleged crimes took place in the UAE.

The hearing was attended by Mr Hamdan, his defence lawyer and two observers from the US Embassy as well as prosecutors. Several of Mr Hamdan's relatives arrived at the courthouse yesterday to attend the hearing, along with representatives from human rights groups. None were allowed into Justice Shahab al Hamadi's chambers as Mr Hamdan's lawyer delivered the defence. State Security prosecutors motioned for an opportunity to respond after the defence rested. The judge gave them up to a week to submit written arguments. No date has been set for issuance of a verdict.

Mr Hamdan was arrested and imprisoned last August, just weeks after he was questioned by FBI agents at the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi over his alleged role in the plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. He was brought to trial at the Federal Supreme Court, which tries all matters of state security. He pleaded not guilty to all charges at an initial open hearing on June 13 despite having signed a confession.

He admitted to giving monetary support to Al Taqwa, a financial institution that has been accused of funding operations by Osama bin Laden, the al Qa'eda leader. Last month, the initial judge in the case, Justice Khalifa al Muhairi, questioned the validity of Mr Hamdan's confession, which Mr Hamdan said was signed under duress. myoussef@thenational.ae