UAE convicts 30 of Muslim Brotherhood ties

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The highest court in the United Arab Emirates convicted 30 men, most of them Egyptian, of setting up an illegal Muslim Brotherhood branch in the Arab Gulf country, sentencing them on Tuesday to prison terms ranging from three months to five years, according to state media reports and rights groups.

All the defendants have denied the charges and human rights groups say the trial has been marred by violations, including secret detentions, arrests without warrants, interrogations without a lawyer present and claims that some of the men were tortured.

Under state security rules, the 20 Egyptian and 10 Emirati defendants have no right of appeal.

All of the Emirati suspects in the case were previously convicted of sedition in a separate trial over the summer. That trial included 59 other activists accused of trying to overthrow the government.

The verdicts are part of a broader crackdown on Islamist groups in Arab Gulf countries.

The UAE has been one of the Arab world's most outspoken critics of the Muslim Brotherhood and is a staunch backer of Egypt's transitional government, which has unleashed its own sweeping crackdown on the group there following former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's ouster from power. The UAE claims Islamist groups backed by the Muslim Brotherhood have sought to topple its Western-backed ruling system.

The group of 30 was accused of trying to obtain security data, distributing secret information from the security services and collecting donations without permission. The UAE's official National newspaper reported that the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi also ordered the seizure of all funds and properties belonging to the men on Tuesday.

They were also fined 3,000 dirhams, or just less than $820.

The London-based Emirates Center for Human Rights said in a statement after the verdict that the charges were "vague" and "politically motivated." It said authorities are targeting individuals solely on the basis of their political beliefs.

"Unfair and unjust political trials are becoming the norm in the UAE, with defendants having their fundamental rights violated and courts failing to uphold international fair trial standards," the center said.

Amnesty International described the case as a "charade". In its statement issued on the eve of the verdict, the rights group said some of the men on trial had been held incommunicado and in secret detention for up to a year before the trial even began. Others were forced to sign "confessions" admitting their guilt, Amnesty International said.

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