UAE must free critics 'unjustly' jailed in mass trial, Amnesty says
The United Arab Emirates, host of this year's UN climate talks, must release dozens of Emirati nationals "unjustly imprisoned" in a 2013 mass trial, Amnesty International said on Sunday, decrying the country's rights record.
In a statement marking a decade since the trial concluded, Amnesty warned that the COP28 meeting would be "tarnished by repression" if the 60 Emiratis still languishing in prison are not immediately freed.
The UAE "is in the international spotlight through its upcoming hosting of the most important annual climate change conference", said Heba Morayef, Amnesty's regional director for the Middle East.
But "its government has not released any of the 60 Emiratis it unjustly imprisoned in the notorious mass trial of 2013, even though 51 of those detained have completed their sentence", she said in a statement.
The so-called "UAE94" trial followed a spate of arrests and persecutions in 2012 targeting 94 Emirati critics of the government, including activists, lawyers, students and teachers.
The UAE charged dozens of suspects with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which it considers a "terrorist group".
Of the 69 convicted, 60 remain in prison, including 51 who are undergoing "counter-extremism counselling", Amnesty said.
The case has drawn criticism from rights groups, especially in the lead-up to COP28, due to be held in the UAE financial hub of Dubai from 30 November.
"COP28 will not bring about the ambitious action we need to avoid climate breakdown if it is held in an environment where the host state has laws that restrict the freedom of expression," Morayef said.
"If governments around the world want to ensure that COP28 is not tarnished by repression… they must act now by pressuring the Emirati government to urgently release these prisoners."
In May, more than 40 human rights groups issued a petition demanding the immediate release of the Emirati detainees.
That same month, an Emirati-Turkish dual national sentenced in absentia to 15 years' jail as part of the mass trial was extradited to the UAE from Jordan.
He was arrested for "establishing a secret organisation affiliated with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood", the UAE said at the time, adding that it "will not hesitate to go after those wanted for justice and prosecute them in fair judicial process".