News / Middle East

    UAE Activists Boycott Trial

    Five political activists on trial in the United Arab Emirates on charges of publicly insulting the country’s leaders refused to appear in court Sunday, saying they believe a guilty verdict has already been decided for them.

    The defendants have been in jail since April and have had four hearings behind closed doors. Sunday was the first time the proceedings were open to the public.

    According to rights groups, the men were forbidden to review the evidence and charges against them, and their lawyers were not given sufficient time to cross-examine witnesses.
    The Emirati nationals are accused of criticizing the government in various ways. A conviction is punishable by up to five years in prison.

    One of the accused, prominent blogger Ahmed Mansoor, faces additional charges of inciting others to break the law, advocating an election boycott and promoting demonstrations.
    Shortly before his arrest, Mansoor openly supported a petition signed by more than 130 people calling on the UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayid Al-Nahyan, to give more power to the country’s advisory legislative body, the Federal National Council, and allow all Emirati citizens to vote for its members.

    On Sunday, a group of international rights organizations reiterated calls for the release of the five activists.

    Samer Muscati from Human Rights Watch described the trial as fundamentally unfair. “It is a step backwards for human rights definitely in the UAE, given the due process issues and problems that we’ve seen - the lack of transparency and secrecy and the fact that defendants haven’t had the ability to defend themselves in a fair manner. So, all signs are very troubling," he said.

    While the UAE has largely avoided anti-government protests seen in other parts of the Middle East, Jenny Pasquarella, a civil liberties lawyer monitoring the UAE trial, says the threat of unrest worries Emirati leaders. “This case has everything to do with the Arab Spring. These five individuals were unfortunately chosen for the government to make an example to civil society that they are going to take a hard line on any political dissent," she said.

    Many UAE citizens have expressed support for the trial, staging pro-government rallies in front of Abu Dhabi’s Federal Supreme Court at every hearing.

    One of the demonstrators, who asked to be identified only as Thabet, says many Emiratis are highly offended by criticism of their leaders. "They are our fathers, they are the people who took care of us. They are the people who took us from our mud houses to what we have today, so in that sense it was very hurtful. My anger towards Ahmed al Mansoor was the anger I would have towards a brother. He’s part of a family and the head of that family is Sheikh Khalifa," he said.

    Abu Dhabi resident Ahmed Jumaa had similar words. “Maybe I will allow you to attack my brother, but I will not accept you to attack my royal family," he said.

    Rights groups say the five defendants, their families and their lawyers have received death threats as a result of what they say is an “ongoing campaign of intimidation.” The next hearing is scheduled for October 9.  It is unclear when a verdict will be announced.

    You May Like

    Multimedia US Observes Memorial Day With Wreath-laying, National Concert

    Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora