U.A.E. Screens Film Portraying Islamist Confessions

A human rights group has filmed a documentary on the trial of 94 Islamists accused of conspiring to destabilize the United Arab Emirates, presenting testimony that challenges claims the proceedings were unfair.

The state-run National Media Council invited journalists to a pre-release screening in Dubai last week. Some of those detained as part of the probe into their activities had said the trial was marred by a lack of legal access, mistreatment and torture, according to Human Rights Watch.

The Geneva-based International Gulf Organization said it financed its film and didn’t receive government support. Robert Resto, IGO’s marketing and media manager, declined to say how the group, which he described as a not-for-profit and non-government group, is funded.

The documentary, titled “The Road to July 2nd,” is the first in a two-part series about the trial, which ended on July 2 with the sentencing of 69 people to terms ranging between seven and 15 years. Twenty-five others were acquitted.

“We have only revealed the truth because only the truth can refute all slander, allegations and falsehood,” IGO President Mansoor Essa Lootah said in a statement released before the screening.

The trial reflected U.A.E. rulers’ concern about Islamist challenges to their authority following popular revolts against other Arab leaders since the launch of the so-called Arab Spring three years ago.

69 Convicted

The documentary features former members of al-Islah, a domestic Islamist group the government says has ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that fielded ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi for office. They spoke about arms training and secret meetings across the country. The film also purported to show signed confessions of senior members of Islah, who acknowledge being influenced by the Brotherhood.

“We tried to get in touch with defendants who had fled the country and the families of other defendants, however, most of them refused to be a part of the film,” Ali Al Jabiri, the film’s screenwriter and director, said in the release.

International human rights organizations have criticized the U.A.E. over the proceedings.

“The trial was marred even before it started by violations of fair trial standards, including the denial of legal assistance during pretrial incommunicado detention, and allegations of torture,” New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a July 3 release.

Earlier this month, HRW expressed similar concerns about another ongoing trial of 30 Emiratis and Egyptians accused of setting up a branch of the Brotherhood in the U.A.E.

“The Road to July 2nd” will be released to the public in two weeks, followed by the second part a week later, Resto said.

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