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Monday, July 15, 2024

UAE court issues life sentences to 43 Muslim Brotherhood members

This mass trial has been heavily criticized by human rights groups and UN experts, who have labelled it as "shamelessly unfair."

The Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal, known as the State Security Court, recently handed down life sentences to 43 members of the Muslim Brotherhood. These individuals were accused of plotting terrorist acts within the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Additionally, five others received 15-year prison sentences, while another five were sentenced to 10 years in jail, accompanied by substantial fines of Dh10 million each. The state news agency, WAM, reported these developments amidst significant international scrutiny and criticism.

Charges and Convictions

According to WAM, the court convicted the 43 defendants of “creating, establishing, and managing the terrorist Justice and Dignity Committee organisation with the intent to commit terrorist acts in the country.” The verdict also saw the dissolution of six companies, which were fined Dh20 million each, and their assets confiscated. The court described the crimes as including money laundering and financing a terrorist organisation.

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The five individuals sentenced to 15 years in prison were convicted of cooperating with the Reform Call organisation, advocating for it through articles and social media posts, fully aware of its anti-state objectives. The remaining five received 10-year sentences and were fined for money laundering connected to terrorist financing.

International Criticism and Human Rights Concerns

This mass trial has been heavily criticized by human rights groups and UN experts, who have labelled it as “shamelessly unfair.” They argue that the trial targeted political dissidents, including human rights activists and government critics. Many of these individuals had already served lengthy sentences following the infamous “UAE 94” trial in 2013, which similarly targeted reform advocates.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have pointed out numerous procedural violations and alleged torture. They claim that defendants were subjected to prolonged solitary confinement, deprived of family and legal contact, and denied access to essential court documents. Joey Shea, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, condemned the harsh sentences as making a “mockery of justice.”

Notable Defendants and Historical Context

Among those sentenced to life imprisonment is prominent human rights lawyer Mohammed al-Roken. Arrested in 2012, he was initially sentenced to 10 years in 2013 for allegedly plotting rebellion. Al-Roken was part of the group of defendants who, despite having completed their previous sentences, faced new charges in the latest trial. Another notable figure likely among the sentenced is Ahmed Mansoor, an activist recognized for his advocacy for free press and democratic freedoms in the UAE. Mansoor, who was targeted by Israeli spyware in 2016, was arrested in 2017 and had been serving a 10-year sentence prior to the recent trial.

Legal and Political Implications

The UAE government maintains that these measures are essential to protect national security and stability. Officials argue that a tough stance on dissent is necessary to prevent the kind of political instability that has affected other Middle Eastern countries. However, human rights organizations contend that the legal process lacked transparency and fairness, damaging the UAE’s international reputation.

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The verdicts can still be appealed to the UAE’s Federal Supreme Court. This trial has highlighted the ongoing tension between the UAE’s efforts to maintain security and the international community’s calls for respecting human rights and due process.