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Rights groups denied access to UAE activists trial

A hearing was held on Monday for five activists in the UAE charged with incitement and insulting the Gulf country's leadership, drawing criticism by a rights groups' representative over the lack of transparency.

September 27, 2011 12:45 by

The world’s No. 3 oil exporter has been virtually untouched by the unrest that has swept through the Arab world and toppled the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, but has been swift to silence any open political dissent.

“We were denied access today,” said Jennie Pasquarella, who flew in from the United States to observe the trial on behalf of four groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

“We’re concerned about the fairness of the trial. None of the hearings have been open in public, they’ve all been secret, in fact no reason has been given for making them secret.”

The political activists and intellectuals were arrested in April, and the attorney general later 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.”

They pleaded not guilty in July at the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi, whose verdicts are final. Another hearing was scheduled for Sunday when the court will hear testimony from a final witness, a judge told lawyers outside the courtroom.

Among the defendants is Ahmed Mansoor, an outspoken rights activist who joined several dissidents this year to start an online petition demanding the country’s Federal National Council, an advisory body, greater powers.

Another defendant, Nasser 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 populaces through generous government spending programmes. (Reporting by Mahmoud Habboush; Editing by Angus McDowall)

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