A sad and controversial chapter in the UAE’s recent history was closed yesterday at the Federal Supreme Court as Judge Falah Al Hajiri announced sentences in the case of 94 Emiratis accused of belonging to an illegal group that plotted to undermine the country’s system and seize power. Leaders of the group were sentenced to 10 years in prison, while those tried in absentia got 15 years. Meanwhile, 25 people were acquitted. The case certainly was a landmark in the country’s judicial history. The nature of the case and the number of those involved in it also made it by far the biggest.
Now, the curtain has fallen on this case and it is time we all move on, but there are a few things that must be noted.
The judicial system has safeguarded its independence and maturity in a country that is only 42 years old. It has proved its ability to withstand pressure and emotions. In that, Chief Justice Al Hajiri and the bench deserve most of the credit. The prosecution and defence teams have disagreed on every point during the trial, but they both agreed on the fairness of the bench. The judge gave all sides ample time to present their cases. Some of the defendants, who chose to argue their cases personally, were given more than enough time to defend themselves. All defence requests, including the type of clothes the defendants wanted to wear, were granted by the judge.
Secondly, the case was tried amid regular protests by several foreign organisations, which called for the release of the accused even before the trial was concluded. Those groups described many of the accused, now convicted members of the Al Islah group, as human rights advocates and political prisoners. That cannot be any farther from the truth.
Many of the accused have never been known as human rights advocates. As court documents, some obtained and published by Gulf News, show, many of the accused had been involved in cross-border Muslim Brotherhood bodies and activities. As the Egyptian experience shows, such groups do not believe in the sovereignty of the state and national laws. Such actions undermine the very fabric of modern states and jeopardise the stability and institutions of their societies in favour of an imaginary super Islamist government, controlled by clerics — something similar to the theological hierarchy in the Iranian system.
The UAE is a young country and it is progressing. Its political, economic and legislative systems are evolving. The ambitions and plans of its leaders and people have no limit. Its electoral experience is progressing gradually and it will continue to develop. In all globally respected indices, the UAE always comes among the top-ranked states in terms of standard of living, transparency, tolerance and economic competitiveness. The trial was not about proving all that. Those convicted yesterday operated in an opposing sphere and on totally contradictory concepts.
However, we have to recognise that the trial was an unfortunate event in our history. It was a challenge we all had to live with. However, with the conclusion of the case, which should be respected, we shall move on and look forward to a brighter future.