UAE court issues life sentences to 43 it says operated local Muslim Brotherhood group

DUBAI (Reuters) – A United Arab Emirates (UAE) court on Wednesday sentenced 43 dissidents to life in prison for operating what it said was a Muslim Brotherhood group that aimed to commit attacks in the country, state news agency WAM reported.

Eleven others received lesser sentences and six companies were convicted of money laundering to support a terrorist organization, it added.

A human rights coalition, which includes Human Rights Watch, said the convictions followed a mass trial that was “fundamentally unfair” and called for them to be immediately overturned.

The UAE’s media office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The verdict can be appealed before the UAE’s Federal Supreme Court, WAM said.

Those convicted were members of the Justice and Dignity Committee, a local group of the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the Arab world’s oldest and most influential Islamist movements which the UAE listed as a terrorist organization in 2014, WAM reported.

They “worked to create and replicate violent events in the country, similar to what has occurred in other Arab states,” including protests and clashes with security forces, WAM said, citing the court, without specifying their plans.

“These over-the-top long sentences make a mockery of justice and are another nail in the coffin for the UAE’s nascent civil society,” Joey Shea, Human Rights Watch’s UAE researcher, said in a statement.

“The UAE has dragged scores of its most dedicated human rights defenders and civil society members through a shamelessly unfair trial riddled with due process violations and torture allegations.”

The Emirates Detainees Advocacy Center said those convicted had already been convicted in 2013 for their involvement with the group, raising concern that the UAE is trying people twice for the same offense, a principle known as double jeopardy.

(Reporting by Andrew Mills; Editing by Richard Chang)

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