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Qatar decries UAE court decision to sentence disabled Omani inmate to life imprisonment over espionage

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Imprisoned Omani national Abdullah al-Shamsi (Photo via Twitter)

Qatar has strongly denounced a decision by the highest appellate court in the United Arab Emirates to uphold a life sentence against a disabled Omani man on charges of espionage for the Persian Gulf kingdom, calling the ruling a “contravention of justice and facts.”

“These accusations are unfounded and have no basis in reality or law, and contradict the policy of the State of Qatar towards all countries, and the State of Qatar rejects and strongly condemns this false accusation,” the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The statement added that the court’s ruling “lacks justice in its proper sense, and is based on reasons that have nothing to do with the law… It also reveals the unacceptable behavior adopted by the Emirati authorities that affects the rights of the [Persian] Gulf citizen, and violates the commitment to the rules and principles of respecting relations between [the two] countries.”

Omani citizen Abdullah al-Shamsi has been held at al-Wathba Prison in Abu Dhabi since August 2018.

The Federal Supreme Court in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, issued a life imprisonment sentence against the young Omani citizen on May 6, nearly two years after his arrest and imprisonment.

Shamsi was arrested after Emirati Arabic-language al-Bayan newspaper alleged in July 2017 that he had cooperated with Qataris to traffic drugs.

The Omani prosecution denied the report, saying the document published by the newspaper was fraudulent. His family filed a report to the police, but to no avail.

His family did not know he was detained by UAE state security forces until a month after his arrest.

Shamsi was harshly investigated and forced into confessing to establishing a spy cell on behalf of Qatar – a charge he has denied in court.

On May 28, the young Omani citizen tested positive for coronavirus at Wathba Prison. He was isolated with approximately 30 other people in a separate cell block amid reports that the virus has been spreading in the prison.

Activists in the Persian Gulf region have been campaigning for the young man's release, and his unjust incarceration prompted the hashtag, # Freedom _ for Abdullah _ Al Shamsi among others. The campaigners have called on Omani authorities to intervene and help.

“Sentencing a man who has depression and cancer to life in prison using a tainted confession is a harrowing example of the unfair UAE justice system,” Michael Page, Middle East deputy director at Human Rights Watch, said earlier this year.

He added, “UAE authorities are refusing to provide information about al-Shamsi’s condition while holding him during the COVID-19 crisis in a prison known for overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and lack of access to adequate health care.”

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