More than 65 suspects accused of plotting an Islamist coup in the United Arab Emirates received prison sentences of up to 15 years today in a mass trial that underscored the widening crackdowns on perceived Arab Spring-inspired dissent across the Gulf Arab region. Rights groups have accused the UAE of widespread violations, including jailhouse abuses against the 94 suspects that were on trial. The Emirates Center for Human Rights in London said the trial was designed to "silence political activists and intimidate those who may support democratic reforms."
Authorities have rejected the claims and have moved ahead with further sweeps targeting suspected groups linked to Islamist networks such as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. The suspects included teachers, lawyers, and even the cousin of one of the UAE's rulers. Prison terms of 15 years were given to eight suspects tried in absentia. Ten-year sentences were handed to 56 others, including Sheikh Sultan bin Kayed al-Qasimi, head of a group known as al-Islah, or Reform, and cousin of the ruler in Ras al-Khaimah emirate. Another five got seven-year terms.