UAE says it is putting 84 people on trial for ‘terror’ charges, sparking criticism

State media claims charges are against ‘mostly members of the Muslim Brotherhood’; Human Rights Watch says those on trial are being targeted for ‘peaceful advocacy’

Illustrative: Pedestrians walk past Dubai's courts building in 2010 in the United Arab Emirates. (AFP)
Illustrative: Pedestrians walk past Dubai's courts building in 2010 in the United Arab Emirates. (AFP)

DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates is set to put 84 people on trial for terror-related offenses, state media said Saturday, a decade after a similar mass trial of government critics.

The Gulf state’s attorney general ordered the trial of “mostly members of the terrorist organization of [the] Muslim Brotherhood,” official news agency WAM said.

In 2013, the UAE tried 94 activists, lawyers, students, teachers and other government critics, accusing them of membership of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Rights groups denounced the proceedings at the time.

The trials resulted in jail time for 69 people, many of whom remain in prison. According to WAM, at least some of them are to be charged in the new trial.

The defendants are accused of “establishing another clandestine organization for the purpose of committing acts of violence and terrorism on UAE soil,” the news agency said. “The defendants had concealed this crime and its evidence before they were arrested and tried” in 2013, it added.

A six-month investigation uncovered “sufficient evidence” for the attorney general to pursue the new trial, WAM said.

Human Rights Watch said in December that the defendants were being persecuted “in retaliation for forming an independent advocacy group in 2010.”

According to the New York-based rights group, charges were also brought against other imprisoned dissidents, including human rights campaigner Ahmed Mansour. He was sentenced in 2018 to 10 years in prison for criticizing the government and tarnishing the country’s image on social media.

“Levelling new charges based on peaceful advocacy over a decade ago seems nothing more than a shameless pretext to keep these men behind bars,” said HRW’s deputy regional director Michael Page.

Emirati authorities said on Saturday that the defendants had been given legal representation, and that the State Security Court had “begun hearing witnesses and the public trial procedures are ongoing.”

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