Activists accused of criticising Government have first day in court

Crowd gathers outside courthouse to express support for Rulers and disagreement with five defendants.

Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Five activists, arrested on charges of criticising the Government, made their first appearance in court this morning.
Prosecutors and defence lawyers for Ahmed Mansour Ali Abdullah al Abd al Shehi, Nasser Ahmed Khalfan bin Gaith, Fahad Salim Mohammed Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali al Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq presented requests to the State Security Court in a closed hearing, the lawyers said. The judge will rule tomorrow on those requests, they said.
The next hearing would be July 18, during which witnesses will be called, the attorneys said.
Although the hearing was private, about 100 people gathered outside the courthouse - some as early as 6am - to show allegiance to the nation's leaders and voice their disagreement with the activists.
"Don't defend the traitors, those agents for Iran," the crowd yelled as the activists' lawyers made their way up the stairs to enter the Federal Supreme Court building, where the Security Court cases are heard.
Many in the crowd wore Emirati keffiyahs with pictures of the Rulers, and vests reading "We are all Khalifa."
The words were echoed in occasional chants, as well as "with our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice for Khalifa".
The sixth-place winner from the first season of Million's Poet was also among those protesting.
"We want to say we are different from those [activists]; we chose our presidents," said Abdulla al Ahbabi. "We love our leaders and we grow up knowing them as our fathers. You don't find this in other Arab countries."
Plans to hold a counter-protest supporting the activists were circulated on Twitter and Facebook, but no gathering materialised.
The five activists were arrested in April on charges including insulting members of the country's ruling families and posing a threat to state security, the attorney general said.
Salim Saeed Kubaish said the five were being investigated for "crimes of instigation, breaking laws and perpetrating acts that pose threat to state security, undermining the public order, opposing the government system, and insulting the President, the Vice President and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi".