x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Trial begins for 94 accused of sedition in UAE

The group denies the plot to undermine the national security of the UAE.

ABU DHABI // The trial of 94 Emiratis charged with membership of a group that sought to undermine the state opened today at the State Security Court in the capital.

Eighty-four of the accused appeared in court, 13 of them women. A further 10 who are not in the country are being tried in their absence.

The group is accused of forming and running an illegal political organisation that sought to oppose the basic principles of the UAE system of governance and to seize power; of seeking to turn public opinion against the leadership by fabricating reasons for government action taken against them; and of illegally using zakat funds to buy stocks and companies and to trade in property.

The women are accused of administering, participating in and organising the women's committee of the illegal organisation, and of training recruits.

Prosecutors demanded the maximum sentence allowable under the law.

Most of those accused are members of Al Islah, an organisation linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. They have been in the custody of the Public Prosecution in Abu Dhabi since arrests began last summer. The group collectively denied the charges.

Today's hearing was the first time the accused have been seen in public since they were arrested. It was attended by about 160 family members, several Emirati rights and legal associations and Emirati reporters for local media.

The Supreme Court Justice Falah Al Hajeri confirmed that all the accused had legal representation, then heard individual requests from their five lawyers and from individual defendants.

Ibrahim Al Mulla, a lawyer who represents one group of defendants, asked for improved visitation rights to spend time with his clients on the case, for copies of the case files and for money, stocks and companies seized by the Government to be returned to the families of the accused.

Mr Al Mulla also demanded that there be no media coverage of the proceedings, on the ground that the local media would be prejudiced against his clients.

Abdulhameed Al Kumaiti, who represents 76 of the accused, argued that a member of a royal family should be treated differently. One of those accused is Sheikh Sultan Al Qassimi of Ras Al Khaimah.

Mr Al Kumaiti asked that the accused be moved from solitary confinement in prison, that those requiring medical help be given the right to see specialised doctors and visit public hospitals if needed, and that spectacles be provided to those who need them.

"I expected to see my family today," one of the accused said in court. "They are here but I cannot see because I don't have glasses."

MR, another defendant, demanded that the accused be released on bail to have more time with their lawyers. Another lawyer, Jasem Al Naqbi, repeated a request that his clients be granted bail or be transferred from solitary confinement into a group prison.

RS, another defendant, asked for visitation rights with his family, and to be able to call them.

The judge asked for specialised medical help for those in need, and that medical reports be presented to the court. He did not rule on the other requests.

The case was adjourned until March 11.

aalkhoori@thenational.ae

hdajani@thenational.ae