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According to the latest world freedom report released by US-based Freedom House, most of the Middle East countries are “Not Free.”
January 13, 2010 1:32 by Aarti Nagraj
And it’s not just the media clampdown; human rights bodies and experts have long being questioning how justice is meted out in Gulf Arab countries.
Earlier this week, the US government asked the UAE to review the acquittal of Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of Abu Dubai’s royal family, who was accused of abusing an Afghani grain merchant in 2004. He was charged with rape, endangering a life and causing bodily harm after a video allegedly showed him torturing the Afghan man was released.
However, the UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan rejected the US’s call. “There’s no way the UAE government is going to get involved on any court ruling,” Zawya Dow Jones quoted him as saying on Tuesday. “If we start doing so, what does that tell us about any court system in any country in the world? That defeats the point of an independent judiciary.”
Saudi’s justice system also came under fire after the kingdom recently imposed the death penalty on a Lebanese man for practicing witchcraft. Human Rights Watch said that Ali Sibat was arrested during a pilgrimage in Medina in 2008 because he made psychic predictions on a Lebanese TV channel.
“Saudi courts are sanctioning a literal witch hunt by the religious police,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of the body said in a statement. “The crime of ‘witchcraft’ is being used against all sorts of behavior, with the cruel threat of state-sanctioned executions.”