ABU DHABI: Prosecutors in the United Arab Emirates have begun interrogating women linked to a group of Islamists held for allegedly plotting to seize power in the Gulf state, news agency WAM said Wednesday.
The UAE announced in July it had dismantled a group it said had been plotting against state security and challenging the constitution.
“The public prosecution has begun interrogating leading female elements of the ‘women’s organization’” linked to the group, the state news agency quoted UAE attorney general Salem Kobaish as saying.
The attorney general did not specify the number of women being interrogated nor whether they could face detention for their links to the group, which he accused of “creating and managing a network aimed at seizing power in the country.”
UAE authorities are ensuring the women are “treated according to principles of Islamic Shariah,” the attorney general said.
However, “justice and equality between people before the law does not distinguish between the sexes,” Kobaish added.
The UAE, a federation of seven emirates led by oil-rich Abu Dhabi, has not seen any of the widespread protests calling for reform that have swept other Arab countries, including fellow Gulf states Bahrain and Oman.
But authorities have stepped up a crackdown on voices of dissent and calls for democratic reform.
Dubai police chief General Dahi Khalfan had repeatedly accused the Muslim Brotherhood – which came to power after the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia – of plotting against Gulf monarchies, claiming that 61 Islamists detained over the past year were linked to the group.
In an interview with Reuters published Wednesday, Khalfan said a suspected Islamist militant cell detained in the United Arab Emirates had links to Al-Qaeda, including its prominent Yemen-based wing.
“They are adherents of Al-Qaeda and its misguided doctrine,” Khalfan told the Saudi-owned Ash-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. “Some of the [cell] members are affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Yemen,” he said, referring to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The group had planned bomb attacks on targets in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other states in the region, rather than setting out to assassinate individuals, Khalfan added.
This month, local media announced that UAE authorities had arrested 11 Egyptian residents suspected of links to Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood.
The case has sparked a sharp deterioration of relations between Abu Dhabi and Cairo, which had already been strained since the election of Brotherhood candidate Mohammad Mursi as Egyptian president last June.
The Gulf country has rejected a request from Egypt for the release of its nationals. Membership of a political party is banned in the United Arab Emirates.