UAE sentences Qatari to 7 years in Islamist trial

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates' top court convicted a Qatari doctor and sentenced him to seven years behind bars on Monday in the latest move by the Gulf federation against the Muslim Brotherhood and its perceived Islamist allies.

The Federal Supreme Court in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi found Dr. Mahmoud al-Jaidah guilty of charges linked to cooperating with an illegal clandestine organization that aimed to overthrow the government, according to state news agency WAM. He will be deported after serving his sentence.

The UAE, a federation of seven semiautonomous sheikdoms that includes Abu Dhabi and Dubai, claims that Islamist groups backed by the Brotherhood have sought to topple its Western-backed ruling system.

Al-Jaidah was detained while transiting through Dubai airport on his way from Thailand to Qatar in February last year. His family has said he had no active role with the Brotherhood, and rights groups have raised concerns about al-Jaidah's claims that he faced torture and improper treatment while in pre-trial detention.

Two other defendants, both Emiratis, were convicted of ties to the group and were each sentenced to five years behind bars. They were identified as Abdul Wahid Hassan al-Badi al-Shehhi and Saeed Abdullah al-Buraimi.

A fourth Emirati being tried on related charges was acquitted.

The UAE sees the Brotherhood and affiliated groups as a threat to its political system. It is a backer of Egypt's transitional government, which has launched sweeping crackdowns on the group there following the ouster of former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, one of its leading figures.

In January, the same court that tried al-Jaidah convicted 30 men, most of them Egyptian, of setting up an illegal Brotherhood branch in the UAE. They received prison terms ranging from three months to five years.

Another 69 people, including a cousin of one of the UAE's ruling sheiks, were last year sentenced to up to 15 years behind bars after being convicted of links to Al-Islah, an Islamist group suspected of ideological ties to the Brotherhood.

Amnesty International last month called on Emirati authorities to release al-Jaidah and to investigate allegations that he was tortured in detention. The rights group called his trial proceedings "grossly unfair" and said he had only been allowed to meet with his lawyer twice since the start of his trial, both times in the presence of state security officials.

The call came weeks after a United Nations human rights expert said that the UAE's judiciary is under the "de facto control" of the country's executive branch. The official, Gabriela Knaul, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, cited credible claims that detainees who were held incommunicado for months, exposed to extreme temperatures and sometimes electrocuted. She urged the government to allow independent investigations into claims of torture.

Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs Abdul Rahim al-Awadi has defended the judiciary's independence, saying it is guaranteed in the country's constitution. He said officials would consider Knaul's recommendations as part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the judiciary and ensure human rights.

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