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Amnesty slams UAE trial of Lebanese Shiites

By AFP - May 10,2019 - Last updated at May 10,2019

BERLIN — The terrorism trial of eight Lebanese Shiites detained in the United Arab Emirates is unfair and based on fabricated confessions obtained under torture, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

A verdict is expected on May 15 in the trial of the eight men, who are all Shiite Muslims and were arrested in the UAE between December 2017 and February 2018.

Amnesty International said the charges of planning attacks in the Emirates on orders of the Iranian-backed Lebanese organisation Hizbollah were trumped up.

“These men were tortured, they were forced into making confessions,” Sima Watling, a researcher for the Britain-based rights group, told AFP.

She said the defendants had lived in the United Arab Emirates for years but were denied regular access to their families or to a lawyer.

One of the eight is Abdel Rahman Talal Chouman, who had lived in the UAE for more than 15 years and been working as a safety and security trainer with Emirates Airline.

During an April 3 session at the state security chamber of the federal appeal court in Abu Dhabi, he 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 said.

All of them have been held in solitary confinement, more than two weeks of which can amount to torture, according to United Nations standards for the treatment of prisoners.

The detained men are from Lebanon’s Shiite community and are accused by the Emirati authorities of collaborating with Hizbollah.

The UAE is a close ally of Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which considers Shiite-dominated Iran to be its arch enemy, and lists Hizbollah as a terrorist organisation.

“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 recognise that the trial was unfair and set the eight free.

In a Ramadan message to the UAE leadership on Tuesday, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil called for the eight to be granted amnesty.

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