x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

New court hearing for activists

The five accused claim they have been denied access to their trial documents, among other grievances.

ABU DHABI // The State Security Court sat today to hear the case of five men accused of insulting the ruling families and threatening national security.

The defendants however did not appear in the courtroom because, their lawyers claimed, their basic requests – such as access to their own court documents – were being denied.

Ahmed Mansour Ali Abdullah Al Abd Al Shehi, Nasser Ahmed Khalfan bin Gaith, Fahad Salim Mohammed Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali Al Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq have been kept in solitary confinement, their lawyers said.

The Emirati men face charges including crimes of instigation; breaking laws and perpetrating acts that pose a threat to state security; undermining public order; opposing the government system; and insulting the President, the Vice President and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

The prosecution began its case with a video slideshow, set to music, about Sheikh Zayed, the country's late founder. They argued that the five men had enjoyed the UAE's generosity and unjustly sought to incite a revolution similar to that of Egypt.

Witness testimony included a representative from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), who was grilled by both sides about the site uaehiwar.net, where most of the alleged illegal statements are alleged to have been made.

He testified that the domain name had been registered with a US company, Hostrocket, and that the first time the TRA had heard about any illegal acts on the site was when prosecutors contacted them about the five men.

Defence attorneys, however, pointed out that the same site had been blocked by the TRA months before the statements are alleged to have been made.

The representative refused to answer direct questions about how if the site was blocked in January 2010, some of the alleged statements could have been made there in July of the same year.

They also lodged an objection because under UAE constitutional Article 30, they are not allowed to seek a new judicial panel for the case. They said the prohibition violated other sections of the constitution.

The next hearing will be on Sunday, when more testimony is expected.

hdajani@thenational.ae