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Middle East

UAE jails scores of people in coup trial

Court sentences members of group state says was "attempting to overthrow government" in trial where media was banned.

Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 10:55
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International media have been barred from attending court hearings, which have been taking place since March [EPA]

A United Arab Emirates court has convicted and jailed most of the 94 Emiratis accused of plotting a coup, Abu Dhabi television said.

The television report said the Federal Supreme Court handed down the sentences on Tuesday. Fifty-six suspects were given jail terms ranging between three and 10 years.

Eight suspects were sentenced in absentia to 15 years in jail and another 26 were acquitted.

Among those sentenced were academics, lawyers and members of prominent UAE families.

Sheikh Sultan bin Kayed Al-Qassimi, a member of the ruling family of the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, and prominent human rights lawyer Mohammed al-Roken, were among the 56, Abu Dhabi television said.

The television report gave no further details.

State news agency WAM described the group as "a secret organisation accused of attempting to overthrow the government," on its website, in a post promoting the television station's coverage.

Police blocked roads outside the court in Abu Dhabi and kept reporters away from the building.

Dozens have been detained in a crackdown on people suspected of belonging to Islamic political parties in the past year, amid heightened worries among officials about a spillover of unrest in other Arab countries.

The trial, which human rights groups say has included "flagrant flaws" in procedure, is widely seen as an attempt by the Gulf Arab state to address what it says is a threat from the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

"These verdicts cement the UAE's reputation as a serious abuser of basic human rights," said Nicholas McGeehan, Gulf researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Today's judgements mark yet another low point for the UAE's worsening human rights record."

No media allowed

The defendants had denied the charges, and some said they had been abused in detention, an accusation the state denies.

Many of the 94 who have been on trial since March are members of the al-Islah group, which the UAE says has links to Egypt's Brotherhood. Al-Islah says it shares some of the Brotherhood's ideology but has no organisational links to it.

Attorney General Salem Saeed Kubaish said in January the members had sought to infiltrate institutions of the state, including schools, universities and ministries. 

"The case is important for the UAE because it targets its security and we have full confidence in the UAE judiciary to issue sentences they see fit," a UAE official, who declined to be named, told the Reuters news agency. "The UAE considers the trial to have taken place in a fair and legal manner."

International media have been barred from attending court hearings, which have been taking place since March.

Rights groups have urged authorities to grant full public access to the trial.

A source close to the UAE government said the trial had taken place in a "very transparent manner".

In a separate case, last month the UAE said it would put on trial 30 Emiratis and Egyptians accused of setting up an illegal branch of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, further straining ties between the two countries.

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