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UAE to issue verdicts for 94 defendants seeking to seize power

Source: Reuters - Mon, 1 Jul 2013 20:47 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Trial sensitive to UAE leadership, shows distrust of Brotherhood

* Defendants allege torture, charge dismissed by authorities

By Yara Bayoumy

DUBAI, July 2 (Reuters) - A United Arab Emirates court will deliver verdicts on Tuesday in the case of 94 Emiratis charged with plotting to overthrow the government, a sensitive case reflecting the authorities' deep mistrust of Islamist groups after the Arab Spring.

Dozens of people have been detained in a crackdown on Islamists 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 seen as an attempt by the Gulf Arab state to address what it says is a threat from the banned Muslim Brotherhood. The defendants say they have been abused, an accusation the state denies.

The Federal Supreme Court is expected to rule on the guilt or innocence of the accused and also to pronounce sentence on those found guilty. Local media reports have said the charges carry a potential jail term of 10 years.

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.

The defendants, known as UAE94, are accused of "belonging to an illegal, secret organisation ... that aims to counter the foundations of this state in order to seize power and of contacting foreign entities and groups to implement this plan".

The defendants have denied the charges.

INSPIRED BY ARAB SPRING

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

He said the accused, all UAE nationals, had invested money from Brotherhood membership fees and charity funds to set up commercial enterprises and real estate investments held in their own names to conceal their activities from the state.

"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 Reuters.

"The UAE considers the trial to have taken place in a fair and legal manner."

One of the region's most politically stable nations, largely thanks to its oil wealth and cradle-to-grave welfare system, the UAE has seen none of the violent turmoil that has shaken other parts of the Middle East and North Africa in the past two years.

But some UAE Islamists, inspired by the successes of counterparts in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, have stepped up their activities, angering the authorities in a country where no political opposition is permitted.

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".

The defendants said they had been insulted, threatened and in some cases subjected to physical abuse after the arrest. UAE authorities have dismissed the accusations.

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. (Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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