x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE detained group 'well treated', reports rights observers

A group of detainees being held on charges of compromising the security of the state appear to be in good health and well taken care of, say human-rights observers who visited them.

Chairman of the Emirates Human Rights Association, Abdul Ghffar Hussain, said detainees held on charges of compromising state security,were in good health.
Chairman of the Emirates Human Rights Association, Abdul Ghffar Hussain, said detainees held on charges of compromising state security,were in good health.

DUBAI // A group of detainees being held on charges of compromising the security of the state appear to be in good health and well taken care of, and bringing them to trial soon would end any rumours and controversy, human-rights observers who visited them said yesterday.

Abdulghafar Hussein, chairman of the Emirates Human Rights Association, said three members of the association met 10 of the detainees recently on two separate occasions. They included Sultan bin Kayed Al Qasimi, chairman of Al Islah, the UAE branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a member of the Ras Al Khaimah ruling family.

Mr Hussein said the detainees were in the custody of the federal Public Prosecution in Abu Dhabi, and not state security.

HRA members were “pleased” by what they saw, he said. “Those detained have not been tortured, the treatment is good,” he said.

“Claims that they are tortured are an utter exaggeration.”

Mr Hussein said because the investigation was dragging on, rumours were spreading of ill treatment.

The detainese are charged with violating Article 180 of the penal code, which bans the formation of any political organisation or any organisation that compromises the security of the state, and with having connections with foreign bodies to harm the political leadership.

Mr Hussein said he did not know how many secret organsations were being dealt with, but the detainees were charged with foreign affiliation. He described the charges as “political crimes more than anything else”.

Ali Salim Al Qeishi, head of prisoners and suspects committee, said all the 10 they met were Emiratis and it was unlikely that any of the detainees were of other nationalities, contrary to previous media statements.

Mr Hussain said claims made by Human Rights Watch were unfounded and they had “their own political agenda”.

The delegates from the association who went to visit the detainees found their rooms to be good, with air conditioning, a good bed, and the food was available and very good and comes from five-star hotels,” he said. “They also have access to health services 24 hours a day and can speak to their families twice a week.”

He said although visits were allowed at first, they were later stopped. He said he hoped authorities would reverse the decision, “particularly during these days of Haj and Eid”.

“And what made us very happy was that treatment of all of them is equal, no one is treated differently,” he said. “Keeping in mind that one of detainees is a relative of a ruling family in the UAE.”

He said investigators could have avoided the criticism and attacks by media and human rights organisations if they speeded up investigations. “When I asked the public prosecutors, we found out they want to continue investigation and make sure everything is accurate.”

They were also told the delay could result in some of the detainees being acquitted.

“They said they do not want to be unjust with anyone, if it was sped up, they might miss something that could lead to one of their acquittals,” Jamila Al Hamili, a member of HRA’s board of directors, said.

She said one example was the public prosecutors’ finding that one of the detainee’s Twitter accounts was fake because it was created after he had already been detained.

“Most of the things on Twitter are not true,” she said. “There are some who want to distort reality, this is something we need to be careful of.”

The observers said the detainees’ families were given Dh50,000 by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, and another unspecified amount at a later point.

“Some refused to take this amount, some asked for more. The Government gave it to them,” Mr Hussain said.

Ms Hamili said when she asked if there were any women detained, no clear answer was given to her.

“I have hopes this case will end very soon,” Mr Hussain said.

osalem@thenational.ae