UAE hands life sentences to more than 40 political activists

A court in the United Arab Emirates has handed life sentences to more than 40 political activists after finding them guilty of terror offences.

State media said the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal convicted the defendants for creating a terrorist organisation.

United Nations experts and rights groups have severely criticised the mass trial.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said more than 80 people – known as the “UAE 84” – were put on trial.

Last January, the UAE’s prosecutor general referred the defendants to the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal on charges of “forming a clandestine organisation for the purpose of carrying out acts of terror and violence” in the country.

According to the official WAM news agency, on Wednesday the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal “sentenced 43 defendants to life imprisonment for the crime of creating, establishing, and managing a terrorist organisation”.

It added one defendant was acquitted and 24 cases were ruled inadmissible.

The bulk of the defendants have been in prison for more than a decade after they were jailed as part of the “UAE 94” trial in 2013, according to HRW and Amnesty International.

Many had already completed their sentences.

But UAE authorities say the latest charges are “materially distinct” from those brought in 2013, which did not include accusations of financing a “terrorist organisation”, AFP reported.

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