x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Eight held on terrorism charges deny funnelling money to Taliban

The accused, charged with involvement in funding and supporting terrorist activity, argue the prosecution have no evidence they had funded the Taliban.

ABU DHABI // Seven Emirati men and one Afghan charged with involvement in funding and supporting terrorist activity argued in court yesterday that the prosecution had no evidence they had funded the Taliban and that videos obtained from some of their computers were for personal use. Several of the defendants also alleged that they had been coerced into signing confessions. The men were among 21 arrested in raids in Khor Fakkan last October, all of whom worshipped at the same mosque, officials said. State Security Public Prosecution has dropped charges against 13 of them.

Two men, RD and AH, are accused of "setting up an organisation to enforce a strict code of Islam", Justice Khalifa al Muhairi read in the Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi. Officials said the men were also funnelling money to the Taliban. "You are accused of punishing a Bangladeshi man for speaking to a woman on the phone. You hit him severely and took pictures of him on your phone," Justice al Muhairi added.

The first defendant, RD, denied the charges, which involve events alleged to have taken place more than a year before his arrest. "I have never done such a thing," he said. "Where are the pictures? If I did take them with my phone and I am accused of that, then where are the pictures? Why would the public prosecution charge me for a crime they allege I did more than a year ago?" "I have signed confessions from the police and from the Public Prosecution of you admitting to your guilt. What do I do with that?" Justice al Muhairi said.

RD replied: "For three months I was placed in solitary confinement. I had no idea where I was. Every morning and every night, I would be beaten. I would confess to anything just to end this pain." The second defendant, AH, is also accused of helping found the group and gathering financing for the Taliban. "I owe Dh90,000 (US$24,000) in bank loans on my car. Why would I give money to someone when I am in debt? If this is the case, then where is the evidence of bank transactions? There is nothing I donated, not even a dollar," AH added.

He also told the court he had been forced into signing the confessions: "I was put in a freezing room for three months. I was not even allowed to pray." The Afghan defendant, who the public prosecution alleges was given the money from members of the group, said he met most of the men only in prison. According to prosecutors, he was to channel the money to Afghanistan. The fifth defendant admitted to giving the Afghan money.

"I gave him money to buy a car for himself, not for the Taliban. He has that car now," MA said, adding that he too had been coerced into signing a confession. "I was made to hold a chair over my head for three hours at a time," he told the court. The sixth and seventh defendants are accused of downloading "military training videos" on to their computers, then showing them to members of the group, Justice al Muhairi said.

The men said the videos were for personal use and had been downloaded from sites open to the public in the UAE. The hearing was adjourned until October 11 when three key witnesses, one of whom is a police officer, are due to testify. myoussef@thenational.ae