Eight Lebanese Shiites face 'terrorism' trial in UAE: HRW


Beirut (AFP)

Eight Lebanese citizens, all Shiite Muslims, have been charged with "terrorism" in the UAE and denied legal representation in a trial "marred with violations", Human Rights Watch said Monday.

While the charges have not been made public, families of the eight men say they were charged with terrorism, according to New York-based HRW.

UAE media reported that they are linked to Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

Although the Iran-backed Hezbollah holds three cabinet posts and is 13 seats in the Lebanese parliament, it is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the United Arab Emirates.

A representative of the UAE government could not be immediately reached for comment.

Family members told HRW the defendants had been held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods and denied legal representation and visits by their relatives.

"Time and again, the UAE has used the spectre of terrorism to justify its utter lack of respect for the rule of law," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.

"By not respecting the rights of the defendants to a fair trial, the Emirati authorities are indicating that they have already decided the outcome."

All of the men under trial have lived and worked in UAE for more than 15 years, seven of them for Dubai-owned Emirates Airlines, HRW said.

The eight men had been detained between December 2017 and February last year and held for one year before their trial opened on February 13, it said.

Family members told HRW that none of the men had any known political affiliations and their confessions were made under duress.

Leading English-language Gulf News daily on February 13 reported an Abu Dhabi court had charged 11 "Arabs", including three in absentia, with "setting up a terrorist cell and planning attacks in the UAE upon the orders of Lebanon's Hezbollah" and that they communicated with the Shiite group in favour of Iran.

The next hearing is scheduled for March 27.