UAE sedition trial: judge admonishes media for implying defendants' guilt

The trial of 94 Emiratis accused of sedition resumed in a brief session in which the presiding judge chastised some media organisations.

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ABU DHABI // The trial of 94 Emiratis accused of sedition resumed in a brief session yesterday in which the presiding judge chastised some media organisations.
Judge Falah Al Hajeri began yesterday's hearing at the State Security Court by singling out headlines he said implied the defendants' guilt. He did not specify a particular news outlet, but warned all media against "acting like judges".
"I hope my words will be taken seriously so we will not have to resort to other unwanted ways. We welcome journalists but they must respect the laws and society's opinions," said the judge.
The session was shorter than previous sessions because technical analyses of secret recordings and financial records of the defendants had not been completed. Prosecutors said they hoped to submit the reports by the next hearing.
The judge used the rest of the hearing to hear final requests from lawyers. Some asked to meet their clients more often and face-to-face rather than behind the glass barrier or on the phone. Others asked the court to provide defendants with the case files.
Lawyer Abdulhameed Al Kumaiti, who represents the majority of defendants, asked for three investigators in the case to testify in court. He also requested immigration documents he said would prove one defendant was outside the country at a critical time and asked for a medical committee to examine two of his other clients.
Another lawyer asked for representatives of companies frozen during the investigation to testify in court, but that request was denied.
Defendants were also given a chance to speak.
One defendant asked that he be allowed to communicate with the other defendants, but the judge told him he could speak only to his lawyer.
Another, ES, said he had been wrongly quoted in case files.
"I have dealt with this case with responsibility and transparency, but the files show words I did not say," he said. "I am afraid that words were also added to others' [testimonies]."
Several other defendants agreed. "We can prove it," said one. AJ said he saw 17 mistakes in his papers while he was being interrogated last July, including his name. He was requested to sign, despite pointing out the mistakes and prosecutors told him he will be able to fix them the next time he goes in for further questioning.
MR complained he had been waiting four weeks but still had not received a copy of the case files. He said many defendants had complained of ill-treatment during their interrogations and in prison. He said he would be made to go more than 30 hours without food and was not allowed to exercise in the prison yard.
He requested that he and the other defendants be granted bail to make it easier for them to meet their lawyers, but this was turned down.
The judge approved an earlier request by a female defendant, FZ, to travel abroad for surgery. He also ruled that all defendants should receive copies of the case files.
The court heard that detailed evidence reports would take another two weeks to be ready. The case was adjourned to April 30.
aalkhoori@thenational.ae