Middle East

Sharjah says UAE will not 'harm' arrested activists

DUBAI: The ruler of the UAE emirate of Sharjah said authorities will not "harm" arrested activists, whom he accused of plotting to form an organisation abroad, media reported on Friday.

Earlier this week, Amnesty International urged UAE authorities to release 50 activists held since March, many of them Islamists, or to provide them with fair trials.

It also voiced concern that 35 of them, arrested in July and whose whereabouts are still unknown, might be "at risk of torture or other ill-treatment."

But Sharjah's Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed al-Qasimi said: "Every mother whose son is in custody must excuse me personally... We will not cause him harm even though he has committed a mistake," according to Dubai's Al-Bayan daily.

"The measure taken was not a punishment but a treatment," Sharjah-based Al-Khaleej daily quoted him as saying.

"God willing, this Eid will not pass without everything being resolved," he said, referring to Eid al-Fitr, the feast marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan which would fall later this month.

He accused those arrested of plotting to set up an organisation abroad.

"These people were held at airports, or at border crossings with Oman or Qatar. Where were they going? They were running away to establish an outside organisation," he said, according to Gulf News.

On July 15, the UAE announced that it had dismantled a group it said was plotting against state security and challenging the constitution of the Gulf state but did not identify their affiliation or give the number of arrests.

Last month, Dubai police chief General Dahi Khalfan accused the Muslim Brotherhood of plotting against Gulf monarchies, claiming the detainees were linked to the group.

The banned Islamist group Al-Islah, to which many of the detainees are said to belong, called on Monday for the release of the activists and for an end to "all security harassment against citizens."

It condemned "false accusations" of challenging the political system, renewing allegiance to the leadership of the federation of seven hereditary sheikhdoms.

The UAE, a federation of seven emirates led by oil-rich Abu Dhabi, has not seen the kind of pro-reform protests that have swept other Arab countries, including Gulf neighbours Bahrain and Oman, since last year.

But the government has increased its clampdown on voices of dissent and calls for democratic reforms.





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