A court in the United Arab Emirates has convicted 69 Islamists of plotting to overthrow the government. Officials say the verdicts cannot be appealed.
Eight suspects, tried in absentia, were given the harshest sentences of up to 15 years in prison. Fifty-six others, including a cousin of one of the country's rulers, were sentenced to a maximum of 10 years behind bars while five suspects were given seven-year terms.
The remaining 25 suspects, including all 13 women, were acquitted.
The list of those found guilty includes human rights lawyers, doctors, academics and student leaders. Most were linked to the Islamist group al-Islah.
Prosecutors say they formed a clandestine network with links to the Muslim Brotherhood that aimed to carry out a coup and transform the Gulf state’s relatively liberal society into a strict Islamist regime.
Human rights activists condemned the rulings. They had previously alleged some of the defendants had been held in solitary confinement at secret locations for months and had been tortured into giving false confessions.
UAE officials denied the torture allegations.
Al-Islah was established in the UAE in 1974. Its members believe strict Islamic ideology should guide society and in recent years they have been critical of the nation’s religious tolerance and its adoption of Western practices.
The UAE government considers the group an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, although representatives claim otherwise.
The UAE has become increasingly wary of the Brotherhood since its rise to power in Egypt. Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim has suggested that a goal of the organization is to impose Islamist rule across all Gulf states.
In June, authorities announced 30 more Emiratis and Egyptians would be put on trial for allegedly setting up an illegal Brotherhood branch inside the country.