A United Arab Emirates (UAE) court yesterday sentenced 69 Islamists to jail for up to 15 years on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, at the conclusion of a mass trial criticized by rights groups.
The Federal Supreme Court sentenced 56 of the 94 defendants to 10 years in prison each, according to the official WAM news agency.
Among the 56 is Sheikh Sultan bin Kayed Al Qassimi, a member of the ruling family of the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, as well as prominent human rights lawyer Mohammed al-Roken, state-run Abu Dhabi television reported.
Five defendants were jailed for seven years each, while eight tried in absentia were sentenced to 15 years each, WAM said.
A total of 25 people were acquitted, including all 13 women arrested in the crackdown and who have been on bail since the start of the trial.
Prosecutors say the accused are linked to the al-Islah group, which has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Political movements are banned in the UAE.
Their trial was the largest in the history of the UAE, which has not seen any of the widespread pro-reform protests that have swept other Arab states, although authorities have cracked down on dissent and calls for democratic reform.
The defendants, among them lawyers, university professors and students, were arrested between March and December last year for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.
Rights groups have alleged some of the detainees had been subjected to systematic mistreatment, including torture.
Only selected relatives of the defendants, local journalists and representatives of human rights groups were allowed to attend the trial at the country’s top security court.
Activists alleged that several of the defendants’ families were informed by the authorities on Monday that they would not be allowed to attend yesterday’s hearing.
UAE attorney general Salem Kobaish in February said the defendants would be tried for “having created and led a movement aimed at opposing the basic foundations on which the state’s political system is built and at seizing power.”
The group had formed a “secret organization” which was in contact with individuals and organizations “abroad,” including the Brotherhood, and had also created or invested in real estate firms to finance their organization, he said.