Amnesty International has denounced the trial of eight Lebanese citizens, all Shia Muslims, in the United Arab Emirates on charges of “terrorism” as unfair and based on fabricated confessions obtained under torture.
The London-based rights organization said on Thursday that the charges of planning attacks in the Persian Gulf country upon the orders of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement were false and baseless.
“These men were tortured; they were forced into making confessions,” Sima Watling, a researcher for Amnesty International, said.
She said the defendants had lived in the UAE for years but were denied regular access to their families or to a lawyer.
Human Rights Watch says all of the men under trial have lived and worked in the UAE for more than 15 years, seven of them for Dubai-owned Emirates Airlines.
The eight men were detained between December 2017 and February last year, and held for one year before their trial opened on February 13.
Family members told HRW that the defendants had been held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods and denied legal representation and visits by their relatives.
During an April 3 session at the state security chamber of the Federal Appeal Court in Abu Dhabi, one of the men, identified as Abdel Rahman Talal Chouman, described how he was tortured for six hours at a time and forced to sign a confession he was not even given a chance to read.
“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 added.
“It is clearly fabricated, it is a bogus trial” against people who happen to be Shias from the south of Lebanon, Watling said, urging the court to recognize that the trial was unfair and set the eight free.
In a Ramadan message to his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and President Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil demanded a special pardon for the eight Lebanese citizens, in addition to three other convicts.
Even though Hezbollah holds three cabinet posts and has 13 seats in the Lebanese parliament, it has been blacklisted as a "terrorist" organization by the UAE.
On October 31, 2016, a court in the UAE sentenced seven people to up to life in prison for establishing a cell linked to Hezbollah.
State news agency WAM reported that an Emirati man and two Lebanese men were handed life sentences and an Egyptian woman and another Emirati man were each jailed for 10 years.
An Iraqi and another Lebanese man were each jailed for 15 years as well.
The charges included “handing over information about a government department” and “oil production in the UAE” as well as “maps of a gas field” to Hezbollah.