State security prosecutors in the United Arab Emirates have dropped terrorism charges in a case involving two Libyan Americans and a Libyan Canadian, instead charging them with the lesser offense of illegally raising funds, a defense lawyer said Thursday.
Prosecutors had initially charged them with knowingly financing two Libyan rebel groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, considered a terrorist organization under UAE law. They were arrested in August 2014, around the time that reports emerged of the UAE leading airstrikes against Islamist rebel groups in Libya.
The four defendants named in the case are Libyan Americans Kamal Eldarat, 59, and his son Mohammed Eldarat, 34, Libyan Canadian Sami Alaradi, 46, and Libyan national Issa Almanna. All were longtime residents in the UAE and successful businessmen.
Lawyer Paul Champ, speaking to The Associated Press from Canada, said prosecutors Monday charged them with providing goods and funds to organizations without approval from the UAE. They face a maximum 15-year prison sentence if found guilty.
He said the defendants acknowledge raising money for the Libyan National Transitional Council with documented approval from the UAE Government. The NTC headed the internationally-backed Libyan opposition to longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi during the 2011 uprising and then governed Libya for a period of time after he was killed.
Champ said he believes the four "are being treated as political pawns for the UAE's interest in what's happening in Libya."
The four say they were tortured during their first three months of detention and forced to sign confessions. Champ said the judge allowed a brief medical examination to take place and that the doctor took photos of scars on Alaradi, allegedly incurred when he was beaten with hoses and other instruments.