UAE political activists mistreated in prison, alleges lawyer
Mohammed al-Roken, a lawyer for two of the five political activists and bloggers who were arrested in the UAE in April claims foul play
October 2, 2011 3:56 by Reuters
Five political activists being tried in the United Arab Emirates on charges of insulting the country’s leaders refused to attend a court hearing on Sunday, protesting against alleged mistreatment, a defence attorney said.
The hearing was made public for the media and representatives of rights groups for the first time since the trial began in June.
The state prosecution, presenting their case on Sunday, said one of the activists published a petition that called for boycotting the UAE’s elections, held last month to select half of a 40-seat consultative council.
Asked by Reuters to comment on the allegations of mistreatment, the state prosecutor said: “We can’t comment on a case while it’s being looked at by the court.”
On their arrest, the attorney general said the men were suspected of inciting “acts that threaten state security and public order”, and “insulting the president, vice president and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi”.
The five pleaded not guilty in July during a hearing at the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi, whose verdicts cannot be appealed.
Among the defendants is Ahmed Manos, an outspoken rights activist who joined several dissidents this year to start an online petition demanding the country’s Federal National Council, a toothless assembly, receive greater powers.
The petition also called for the right to vote for all citizens. The government expanded the number of handpicked eligible voters to 129,000 in the Gulf state’s second election on Sept. 24, about 12 percent of nationals in the world’s No.3 oil exporter. Just 7,000 were chosen for the elections 2006.
Bin Ghaith, a lecturer at the Abu Dhabi branch of France’s Sorbonne University, published an article criticising what he called Gulf states’ attempt to avoid political reform by buying off their citizens with generous government spending programmes. (Reporting Mahmoud Habboush; Editing by Karolina Tagaris)