UAE sentences 7 over alleged al-Qaeda ties

WAM said the seven people were guilty of participation in a group linked to al-Qaeda

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A security court in the United Arab Emirates has found seven people guilty of participation in a group linked to al-Qaeda, the Gulf federation's official news agency reported Monday.

The verdict is the latest in a series of convictions involving Islamist sympathizers in the Western-allied country, which includes the oil-rich capital Abu Dhabi and the cosmopolitan commercial hub of Dubai. The majority of its residents are foreign guest workers.

The WAM news agency said the defendants were sentenced by the State Security Circuit at the Federal Supreme Court in the capital Abu Dhabi on Monday. Among the charges they faced were participating in an al-Qaeda cell, recruiting people to join the terrorist group's Nusra Front affiliate in Syria, and collecting money to finance terrorism abroad.

One of the defendants received a life sentence, while the other six were each ordered to serve seven years behind bars. Two of those receiving lesser sentences were also fined the equivalent of $272,000 each. One of the defendants was convicted in absentia.

Two other defendants charged in the same case were acquitted because of a lack of evidence.

The agency did not identify the defendants' nationalities, but said they were ordered to be deported after serving their sentences. It was not possible to reach their lawyers for comment.

The Emirates has taken a tough stance against perceived Islamist threats, and has jailed dozens of people allegedly linked to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups on state security charges since last year.

A United Nations human rights expert, Gabriela Knaul, in February raised questions about the UAE's legal system after the government invited her for a visit, saying its judiciary is under the "de facto control" of the country's executive branch. A UAE official has said the country will consider Knaul's recommendations while asserting its judiciary's independence is guaranteed.