HRW fears 'mockery of justice' in UAE Islamists trial

AFP, Sunday 3 Mar 2013

Trial of 94 Emirati citizens accused of crimes against national security raises serious fair trial concerns, including limited access to lawyers and withholding of key documents concerning charges against them, HRW says

Human Rights Watch raised fears Sunday of a "mockery of justice" as it urged UAE authorities to ensure a fair trial for 94 Islamists accused of plotting against the Gulf state, on the eve of the hearing.

"It appears that UAE authorities will drag scores of citizens through a shamelessly unfair judicial process that makes a mockery of justice," said HRW's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson in a statement.

The judicial process "raises serious fair trial concerns, including limited access to lawyers and withholding of key documents concerning the charges and evidence against them," said the New York-based watchdog.

On Monday the defendants will face the Federal Supreme Court, which acts as state security court.

"The decision to prosecute the case before the Federal Supreme Court under state security procedures deprives those being tried of the right to appeal," HRW said.

"Defense lawyers cannot possibly defend their clients adequately without seeing the documents setting out the evidence against them," said Leah Whitson.

UAE attorney general Salem Kobaish last month said the defendants will go on trial 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 organisation" which was in contact with individuals and organisations "abroad", including the Muslim Brotherhood, Kobaish said.

The attorney general said they had also created or invested in real estate companies to finance their organisation.

The suspects were arrested between March and December last year. All of them are members of or have links with Al-Islah Islamist group which is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

They include human rights lawyers Mohammed al-Roken and Mohammed al-Mansoori, as well as university professors, students and at least 10 women, according to the HRW.

Two relatives of each male defendant and one family member of each female defendant will be allowed to attend the hearing, HRW said.

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