Middle East

UAE 'Qaeda cell' on trial over Syria jihadists support

An Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra fighter talks on a walkie-talkie while carrying his weapon on Al-Khazan frontline of Khan Sheikhoun, northern Idlib province May 17, 2014. (REUTERS/Hamid Khatib)

ABU DHABI: A UAE court Monday held a new hearing in the trial of an "al-Qaeda cell" of nine men accused of supporting Al-Nusra Front, the jihadist network's Syrian affiliate, state news agency WAM said.

The prosecution accused seven of the defendants of "joining the terrorist Al-Qaeda organisation and forming a cell in the UAE to promote its ideas," WAM reported.

It said the men had tried to "recruit members to join Al-Nusra Front that is fighting the Syrian government," adding they also raised money that they "sent to Al-Nusra."

The two other defendants were accused of running a website promoting Al-Qaeda's ideology and aimed at recruiting fighters "to execute terror acts outside the country," WAM said. One of the defendants is being tried in absentia, local media had reported previously.

The court adjourned the trial to May 26.

Local press had previously said the defendants, most of whom were from North Africa and whose trial began on May 6, were accused of plotting attacks in the Gulf state, but WAM did not mention these charges.

Abu Dhabi said in April 2013 it had dismantled an Al-Qaeda cell planning attacks in the United Arab Emirates, one of the Middle East's stablest countries.

The UAE, like its neighbouring Gulf monarchies, emerged unscathed from the wave of Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.

But dozens of Emiratis and Egyptians have been jailed in past months for forming cells of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is outlawed in Egypt and accused of seeking to overthrow the Gulf monarchies.

Foreigners account for more than 85 percent of the UAE's estimated population of eight million, attracted by work opportunities in the oil-rich country.





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