x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

UAE sedition trial: Accused question evidence against them

There were heated moments in court as prosecutors responded to statements by defendants.

ABU DHABI // The trial of 94 Emiratis accused of sedition resumed yesterday with the accused and their lawyers continuing their defence testimony.

Several defendants questioned the evidence against them, and argued that they were not part of a secret organisation. In response, prosecutors argued that their statements were emblematic of their efforts to undermine the state.

MR, the first to speak, denied the charges against him, and argued that bringing down the state was virtually impossible. Because the UAE was a federation of seven emirates, "we would presumably have to overtake seven different governments, which is impossible, especially since most are related to or have personal relations with the royal families of the governments".

Another defendant, SS, said: "I was accused of managing three committees, along with three others. I was not asked about them in interrogations, and I had not met the others who were said to be managing with me. So where is the seriousness in the investigations?"

"In reality," said a fourth defendant, KS, "this is a case of intellect and not of seizing power."

The session grew heated when the prosecution responded to the defence arguments. "This case shows all the elements of the crime," one prosecutor said. "Most defendants gave their personal history instead of their defence, they mentioned their achievements and did not relate them to the country. They stated their loyalty repeatedly in the aim of diverting the attention of the evidence provided and to try to forget the secret meetings they have had."

Several defendants shouted that these were "lies" and the prosecutors should not "hurt them". Judge Falah Al Hajeri urged calm and said prosecutors had a right to respond to defence statements.

Mohammed Al Zaabi, a lawyer representing seven of the accused, said there was insufficient evidence to convict. "Do we defend without evidence? The accusations are not clear," he said.

He pointed out that witnesses had said the accused revealed their intentions after the Arab Spring, but most of the recordings in the prosecution's evidence were dated at least five months before that.

Hamdan Al Zeyoodi, who represents ten defendants, said Al Islah was not a secret organisation as the prosecution argued. "They have a website with a list of their activities and members," he said.

Mr Al Zeyoodi said most defendants did not know what they were accused of. He said some prosecution witnesses had answered 15 questions in exactly the same way, indicating that their evidence had been doctored by the prosecution and should therefore be excluded.

Another lawyer, Abdulrahman Bel Haj, asked for his client's acquittal because none of the evidence related to him and no witness had mentioned him.

The trial continues today.