Qatar condemns Emirati court decision to uphold life sentence against Omani citizen Abdullah Al Shamsi

Qatar condemns Emirati court decision to uphold life sentence against Omani citizen Abdullah Al Shamsi
Qatar has condemned the UAE after it upheld a life sentence against 21-year-old Abdullah Al Shamsi.
3 min read
12 August, 2020
Abdullah Al Shamsi [Twitter]

Qatar has rejected a life sentence issued by the United Arab Emirates Federal Court of Appeals against an Omani citizen accused espionage in collaboration with the Kingdom, calling the decision a “contravention of justice and facts”.

Doha echoed criticism levelled against the UAE by rights activists, including Human Rights Watch, who in July called the trial “grossly unfair”.

The Federal Court upheld a life sentence of 21 years against Omani citizen Abdullah Al Shamsi on charges of espionage against the state with Qatar.

The Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement criticising the UAE for its decision, and said: “These accusations are unfounded and have no basis in reality or law, and contradict the policy of the State of Qatar towards all countries, and the State of Qatar rejects and strongly condemns this false accusation.”

The statement added that the court’s ruling “lacks justice in its proper sense, and is based on reasons that have nothing to do with the law…it also reveals the unacceptable behaviour reached by the Emirati authorities that affects the rights of the Gulf citizen, and violates the commitment to the rules and principles of respecting relations between [the two] countries.”

Al Shamsi, a resident of the Emirates had been arrested on 18 August 2018 when he was just 19 years old and still attending high school.

According to HRW, state security forces subjected him to five months of incommunicado detention, prolonged solitary confinement, and torture.

He was later moved to Al Wathba prison and charged with “communicating with the state of Qatar,” after he contacted his uncle, who is residing in Qatar.

Al Shamsi, now 21, has depression and kidney cancer.

His unjust incarceration prompted the hashtag, # Freedom _ for Abdullah _ Al Shamsi among others on Twitter in the Gulf region, where activists demanded his immediate release, and called on Omani authorities to intervene.

“Sentencing a man who has depression and cancer to life in prison using a tainted confession is a harrowing example of the unfair UAE justice system,” said Michael Page deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch earlier this year.

“UAE authorities are refusing to provide information about al-Shaamsi’s condition while holding him during the Covid-19 crisis in a prison known for overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and lack of access to adequate health care.”

In late April, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion on al-Shamsi’s case that found his detention arbitrary, stating that the government’s response to the allegations of torture and due process violations do not sufficiently rebut the allegations, and saying that the authorities should ensure his immediate release.

A blockade was imposed on Qatar by its Gulf neighbours in 2017, when they closed off all borders with Qatar and presented a list of 13 demands.

Among the demands were "downgrading ties with Tehran," while the blockade – which has dragged for over three years – is said to benefit Tehran.

Earlier in the year, the US joined Gulf talks surrounding the Qatar blockade, calling on the neighbouring countries to form a united front against Iran – dubbed a "regional threat" by the US.

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