UAE court verdict on rights activists next month

ABU DHABI- An Emirati court said Sunday that it will next month issue its verdict in the trial of five activists accused of insulting top officials as the defendants continue to boycott the hearings.
The verdict will be announced on November 27, "while the defendants will remain in custody," the judge announced after the lawyers lodged their defence.

Blogger Ahmed Mansoor and Nasser bin Gaith, who lectures at the Abu Dhabi branch of the Sorbonne University, were detained in April along with activists Fahid Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq.
The men are accused of using the Internet to insult UAE leaders, call for a boycott of last month's Federal National Council elections and for anti-government demonstrations.
Lawyer Abdulhamid al-Kumaiti told AFP after the hearing that he was expecting the defendants to be declared not guilty.
"I am expecting a not-guilty verdict based on all the defence we have presented, which has exceeded 2,000 pages," he said.
"We are confident ... and we are determined to ensure and defend the independence of the judiciary and the neutrality of the judge," he added.
The defence denied all charges filed against their clients and rejected the testimony of the main witness -- a security officer -- as "false and contradictory."
Mansoor is accused of having created a US-hosted discussion forum on which the four other activists, using pen names, criticised the government.
No concrete proof has been presented against the five men, lawyer Mohammed al-Roken, told the court.
The forum was blocked in the United Arab Emirates in February while the posts that the five activists were detained over posting from the country are dated to October, said Roken.
He also charged that the defendants' confessions "are void because they have been extracted under torture."
Wedad al-Muhairi, wife of bin Gaith, sounded upbeat after hearing the defence.
"If there is justice, I expect a not-guilty verdict," she told AFP. "I am happy today as I heard the lawyers affirming Nasser's innocence."
The defendants, alleging mistreatment, have refused to attend the hearings, saying the outcome has been pre-decided.
"We the five defendants ... announce our full boycott of this court and our total rejection of whatever measures and verdicts it will reach," they said in a statement received by AFP on Sunday.
The activists appealed to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan to "intervene to end these unfair acts that have accompanied our arrest."

Monday, October 24th 2011

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