Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [press release] the United Arab Emirates (UAE) [BBC profile] Monday to investigate claims of torture and ill-treatment made by many of the 94 defendants in a trial on state security charges. While several of the defendants have raised allegations of ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement, judicial authorities have yet to investigate these claims. "This trial raises serious questions about the UAE's willingness to respect the fundamental right of all accused to receive a fair trial," said the Middle East director at HRW, Sarah Leah Whitson. The advocacy group implored UAE to immediately investigate all claims of abuse, and to deny the use of any evidence that may have been obtained through ill-treatment or coercion. HRW is also concerned that the court has denied trial access to a number of international observers and human rights groups. "The UAE authorities seem intent on keeping this trial as much under wraps as they can,'1; said Whitson. "If they are interested in ensuring a fair trial, they should allow international observers to attend the court sessions, not block their presence."
The UAE began the trial [JURIST report] of 94 people charged with plotting to overthrow the government last month. The group of defendants includes unnamed doctors, academics, lawyers and other professionals [Guardian report] arrested over the past year and accused of forming a secret network with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood [official website; JURIST news archive] and designs to raise money in a plotted coup against the Emirati ruling families. UAE authorities began arresting al-Islah members last March, when security forces arrested Ahmed al-Zaabi, a former judge, and Ahmed Ghaith al-Suwaidi together at a Dubai gas station. They detained the chairman of al-Islah, Sheikh Sultan Bin Kayed al-Qasimi, on April 20. In late April AI and HRW called on the UAE to stop the recent crackdown on political activists [JURIST report] by ending arrests and releasing those already in custody, expressing concern that the UAE is threatening to revoke prisoners' citizenship as a way of punishing them for expressing public dissent, an action that the advocacy groups contend violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text]. In July prominent human rights lawyer and al-Islah member Mohammed al-Roken, along with his son and son-in-law, were all detained [JURIST report] just a few days after the arrest of another prominent human rights lawyer, Mohammed Mansoori. A month later Al-Roken and Mansoori began a hunger strike [JURIST report] to protest their detentions. Both lawyers are reportedly among the 94 defendants now on trial.