UAE activists in court 'for insulting officials': report

DUBAI- Lawyers for five Emirati activists on trial for allegedly insulting top officials presented their arguments to an Abu Dhabi court on Monday as hundreds of government supporters protested outside, a daily said.
"Defence lawyers of Emirati bloggers, charged with instigation, breaking laws and perpetrating acts that pose a threat to state security, undermining the public order, opposing the government system and insulting the president and the vice president, presented their case on Monday," Gulf News reported.

However, a defence lawyer, Abdelhamid al-Kumaiti, told AFP that lawyers had not yet presented their arguments.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges at the start of the trial in June, and Kumaiti said the five rejected all allegations against them.
Kumaiti said the court heard two of the eight prosecution witnesses before setting the next hearing for July 25.
The hearing, the second in the trial, was held behind closed doors, Gulf News reported on its website.
Outside, "hundreds of Emiratis... gathered outside the courthouse to support the UAE leaders and condemning the bloggers," it said.
"We are all Khalifa, Khalifa is a red line," banners read, referring to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the United Arab Emirates' president.
Blogger Ahmed Mansoor, Nasser bin Gaith, an economics lecturer at the Sorbonne University in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, and activists Fahid Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq were detained in April and went on trial before the State Security Court on June 14.
Some of the activists on trial also signed a petition issued in March, calling for political reform, particularly direct elections and broadening the powers of the UAE legislature, the Federal National Council.
Rights groups had on Sunday called for the UAE to call off the trial.
Amnesty International, the Arabic Network For Human Rights Information, Front Line Defenders and Human Rights Watch all called on the UAE authorities to abandon the trial and release the men immediately.
"The UAE government is using defamation as a pretext to prosecute activists for peacefully expressing their beliefs about the way their country should be run," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director, Philip Luther.
The Arab world has been swept by a wave of pro-reform protests that have toppled the long-time presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, and also spread to Libya, Syria, Yemen, and the tiny but strategic Gulf kingdom of Bahrain.
The UAE, however, has so far avoided protests.

Tuesday, July 19th 2011

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