More than 40 sentenced to life in UAE for ‘terror’ offences

More than 40 sentenced to life in UAE for 'terror' offencesc5d43aa0-3ece-11ef-9b4b-8570d6abfe38.jpg

By Thomas MackintoshBBC News, London

More than 40 sentenced to life in UAE for 'terror' offencesgrey-placeholderUAE Ministry of Justice Abu Dhabi Federal Court of AppealUAE Ministry of Justice

The Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal convicted 53 defendants in total and handed out life sentences to 43

A court in the United Arab Emirates has handed life sentences to more than 40 political activists after finding them guilty of terror offences.

State media said the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal convicted the defendants for creating a terrorist organisation.

United Nations experts and rights groups have severely criticised the mass trial.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said more than 80 people – known as the “UAE 84” – were put on trial.

Last January, the UAE’s prosecutor general referred the defendants to the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal on charges of “forming a clandestine organisation for the purpose of carrying out acts of terror and violence” in the country.

According to the official WAM news agency, on Wednesday the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal “sentenced 43 defendants to life imprisonment for the crime of creating, establishing, and managing a terrorist organisation”.

In addition to the 43 life sentences handed out, 10 other defendants were jailed for 10 to 15 years, WAM said.

It added one defendant was acquitted and 24 cases were ruled inadmissible.

The bulk of the defendants have been in prison for more than a decade after they were jailed as part of the “UAE 94” trial in 2013, according to HRW and Amnesty International.

Many had already completed their sentences.

But UAE authorities say the latest charges are “materially distinct” from those brought in 2013, which did not include accusations of financing a “terrorist organisation”, AFP reported.

According to Amnesty International, the indictment, charges, defence lawyers and names of defendants have been “kept secret by the government”.

It said details are only known through “leaks”.

Reacting to the sentencings, Amnesty International’s Devin Kenney urged the UAE to “urgently revoke this unlawful verdict” and called on those sentenced to be released.

“The trial has been a shameless parody of justice and violated multiple fundamental principles of law, including the principle that you cannot try the same person twice for the same crime, and the principle that you cannot punish people retroactively under laws that didn’t exist at the time of the alleged offence.”

Despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the Middle East and promoting high-tech sectors and innovations, the UAE remains restrictive on political activity.

The federation of seven states, which include Abu Dhabi and Dubai, has no official opposition and bans political parties.

In 2013, almost 70 Islamists were given jail sentences over an alleged plot to overthrow the government.

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