Emirates Leaks

International pressure on the UAE to release eight arbitrarily detained Lebanese

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Amnesty International considers that the trial of eight Lebanese accused of terrorism is unfair as it is based on forced confessions under torture.

The eight people arrested by UAE authorities between December 2017 and February 2018 are expected to be released in the a of this month.

The organization described the charges against them, which are the formation of a terrorist cell and planning to carry out terrorist attacks in the UAE with orders from the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, as fabricated charges.

“These men were tortured, they were forced into making confessions,” said Sima Watling, a researcher at the organization. She pointed out that the defendants have spent many years in the UAE, but today they are not allowed to see their relatives or even their lawyers regularly.

The accused have been in the country for years, seven of whom were Emirates airlins employees. One of the defendants, Abdul Rahman Talal Shoman, has lived in the UAE for more than 15 years and served as Emirates Airlines’s security and safety supervisor.

On April 3, during a hearing before the State Security Department of the Federal Court of Appeal, Shoman recounted how he was once tortured for six hours and was forced to sign a confession that he was never allowed to see, according to the organization.

“He had documents in his laptop for training his colleagues on scenarios of possible attacks… these were part of the accusation that he was planning an attack on the airport,” Watling said.

“If the authorities take these confessions in this trial as being the truth, they are not abiding by international law,” she said.

The UAE authorities put the defendants in solitary confinement for two weeks, which amounts to torture or other ill-treatment, according to UN standards of dealing with prisoners.

The defendants are all from southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah has considerable influence. The UAE is a key ally of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s arch-foe, and ranks Hezbollah as a “terrorist” organization.

“It is clearly fabricated, it is a bogus trial against people who happen to be Shiite from the south of Lebanon,” Watling said, urging the court to recognize that the trial was unfair and set the eight free.

A few days ago, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil called on the UAE authorities to issue a special amnesty for 11 Lebanese in its prisons, including 3 convicts and 8 who have yet to be sentenced.

This came in a letter delivered by Bassil to UAE Ambassador to Lebanon Hamad Saeed Al Shamsi addressed to his UAE counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

 In his message, the Foreign Minister wished his UAE counterpart to issue a special amnesty for the eight Lebanese detainees in the UAE, in addition to the three convicts.

The move coincides with a campaign launched by the detainees families through social media sites over the last two days, demanding that the government intervene to release their children prior to their mid-May trial.

In March, Human Rights Watch accused UAE authorities of detaining and prosecuting eight Lebanese under unfair proceedings, including solitary confinement at an unknown location for more than a year.

According to Human Rights Watch, these men, all of them are Shia Muslims, live in the UAE and have been working there for more than 15 years, seven of whom work for Emirates airlines as hosts, host supervisors or senior managers. Their relatives said none of them had any known political affiliations.

The families of the detainees transferred their story to international human rights organizations. They launched the hashtag (#موقوفو_الإمارات) on Twitter so that people can contact with them.

Last month Amnesty International sent a letter to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed demanding the immediate release of the eight detained Lebanese, while the court of appeal in the UAE capital set May 15 as the date for the final verdict.