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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More