Human rights groups on Thursday criticised the United Arab Emirates' trial of five activists accused of insulting top officials as "grossly unfair."
The trial of the five accused of "publicly insulting" the officials "has been grossly unfair, and the case against them has no basis in international law as it violates their freedom of expression," said a statement by a coalition of international human rights organisations.
The coalition of seven groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, called "for all five to be released immediately and unconditionally and the charges dropped."
Civil liberties lawyer Jennie Pasquarella, who has monitored the trial, spoke of "legal and procedural flaws" which have marred the case "right from the beginning."
"UAE authorities should show a basic commitment to international legal standards by releasing these men without delay and initiating an independent review of why and how they've been prosecuted on these transparently politicised charges."
Blogger Ahmed Mansoor and Nasser bin Gaith, who lectures at the Abu Dhabi branch of the Sorbonne University, were detained in April along with activists Fahid Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq.
They are accused of using the Internet to insult UAE leaders, call for a boycott of September's Federal National Council elections and for anti-government demonstrations.
The Federal Supreme Court said it will announce its verdict, which they cannot appeal, on November 27.
The first four hearings were held in secret, with only state security agents allowed to attend, said the statement.
The men are being tried under state security procedures "to further distort the public's understanding of this case and to create public confusion about the actual conduct at issue in this case -- not state security threats, but rather allegedly insulting statements," Pasquarella said.
The defendants, alleging mistreatment, have refused to attend the hearings, saying the outcome has been decided in advance.