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

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.