Abu Dhabi: The State Security Court convened on Monday the first session of the trial of a group of Emiratis charged with threatening national security and forming a clandestine organisation aimed at overthrowing the government.
The court, which is part of the Federal Supreme Court, was presided by Judge Falah Al Hajiri, who postponed the hearing to March 11. The purpose was to inform suspects who fled the UAE about the significance of attending the trial, and to provide more time for lawyers to read the documents relating to the case. The judge has also decided to allow female suspects to be released on bail, and keep the accused judges held in areas belonging to the judicial authority. The rest of the suspects are to be held in certain areas as stated per the country’s law.
The list of suspects on trial include 13 women and 10 suspects who have fled the country. After the session, which was held at the State Security Court in the Federal Supreme Court building, the judge referred the seven suspects who were arrested last week to the Public Prosecution. They are to undergo questioning before standing trial on March 11.
In a session that started at 10.20am and lasted until 4pm, the Public Prosecution accused the suspects of establishing and managing an organisation called, “Al Islah Group”, which aims to overthrow the government and destablise security.
Accusations included the formation of an organisation with the same administrative structure as that of the country, which had councils, general assemblies, women’s offices, as well as a network to penetrate all sectors of the state’s administration. Suspects were additionally accused of communicating with leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Qatar.
In addition, the suspects were accused of exploiting UAE nationals in an attempt to make them join the group; inciting public opinion; having secret meetings and moving from secrecy to publicity through using social networking sites and satellite channels. The suspects are said to have formed a satellite channel called, ‘Hayatina’ (Arabic for ‘Our Lives’) that is meant to promote the organisation’s fundamental ideas, and offend the ruling system in the UAE. It is also meant to communicate with international organisations and provide them with false information on the country, to encourage them to send money, which would later be invested on behalf of the organisation.
The Public Prosecution has demanded the suspects receive maximum penalties according to articles 117, 180 (first sector), and 182. The prosecution also demanded that the organisation is dissolved along with its websites, satellite channels, affiliated companies and that all the money be confiscated.
The suspects and their lawyers have pleaded not guilty to all accusations. They requested the court to drop all charges and release them, as well as provide compensation for physical and psychological damage. The suspects requested that means of communications and comfort are made available at the areas where they are being held. They also requested to be moved to public prisons belonging to the Ministry of Interior.
One of the suspects, Ahmad Gaith Al Suwaidi stated: “I request protection for myself and my family because what I will say could put my life in danger. I am against the organisation and I demand to have it dissolved immediately. And I deny all the accusations against me.”
Upon their request, the judge allowed the main suspects to defend themselves and present their arguments. These included Shaikh Sultan Bin Kayed Al Qasimi, Dr Mohammad Al Rokn, Judge Khamis Al Som, and lawyer Salem Al Shehi, among others.
Three of the suspects who are also judges, claimed that their trial was invalid due to their profession. They alleged that they cannot be put on trial as per the country’s law.
At one point during the hearing, two of the suspects’ relatives were escorted out of the courtroom by the security guards as they had broken the regulations.
Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on his Twitter account that the session was “organised and procedural” in its nature.
“The session was attended by Emirati civil society organisations such as Human Rights Organisation, Writers’ Union, Lawyers Association, Journalists Association, Sociologists Association and representatives from the media – in a clear indication of transparency,” said Gargash.