Thirty Islamists were charged in an Abu Dhabi courtroom on Tuesday, accused of illegally establishing a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Prosecutors contend that the defendants recruited members inside the UAE while maintaining an alliance with the group’s leadership in Egypt. The 20 Egyptians and 10 Emiratis also face charges of collecting donations without permission.
The defendants, who include doctors, engineers and university professors, were arrested between November 2012 and January 2013, but they did not appear in court until now. During the hearing, the judge appointed a medical committee to perform physical check-ups on defendants, and provided more time for lawyers to call in witnesses. The UAE’s Federal Supreme Court plans to resume the case on November 12.
The Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi. (Photo: Reuters)
Human Rights Watch raised concerns about the trial, questioning the UAE judicial system’s capacity to guarantee basic rights for the defendants. The defendants denied all charges but claimed the UAE authorities prevented them from having access to fair legal representation. In handwritten letters smuggled out of prison, the defendants also said prison authorities subjected them to physical torture and coerced their confessions.
Tuesday’s court appearance highlights the concern among Gulf leaders that organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood are plotting unrest. The UAE has cracked down hard on dissent and has arrested dozens of people since 2011. In July, a court convicted 61 members of an Islamist group, Al-Islah, accused of having close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The UAE has proven to be among the most generous and most vocal supporters of Egypt’s new military backed government. Days after the Egyptian military ousted President Mohammad Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the UAE pledged billions of dollars to support the military’s interim government.