ABU DHABI —
The UAE’s State Security Court has sentenced 30 defendants to up to five years in jail for establishing an illegal Muslim Brotherhood cell in the country.
The group, comprised of 20 Egyptians and 10 Emiratis, adds to a growing number of alleged Islamists imprisoned by authorities in the Emirates.
In addition to setting up and running an “international” branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, prosecutors argued the men also stole secret government information and collected donations for their organization without permission.
The defendants deny the charges and claim to have been tortured while in police custody. They say they were denied adequate legal representation throughout the trial, which began November 5.
The government has repeatedly described the torture allegations as baseless.
In a separate trial that concluded in July, 69 Islamists, most linked to the local group al-Islah, were found guilty of attempting to overthrow the UAE political system and sentenced to prison terms of up to 15 years.
Christian Koch, director of international studies at the Geneva-based Gulf Research Center, said the government has close eyes on the Brotherhood.
“There are definitely still a lot of concerns, which basically center on the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is seen as somebody who wants to hijack the political process in the country," Koch said.
In 2012, Dubai’s police chief suggested the Brotherhood had been plotting to overthrow governments throughout the Gulf and impose Islamist rule. The group is banned in much of the region.
Lori Plotkin Boghardt, a fellow on Gulf politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the government is wary of the fallout from social and political upheaval in much of the Arab world.
“Current anxieties by the UAE government are linked really to the ascendance of Islamists across the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring," Boghardt said.
All six Gulf Arab states are headed by ruling monarchies, which have imposed a number of measures to prevent the pro-reform rhetoric of recent Arab revolutions from germinating within their borders.
Rights groups allege Tuesday’s verdict was politically motivated. The 30 defendants were sentenced to between six months and five years in prison, according to the state news agency WAM.
Six of the Egyptians were tried in absentia. All of the Emiratis were also convicted of sedition in July.
The verdict is not subject to appeal.