UAE Court Sentences 43 People to Life in Prison in Mass Trial: Report

The Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) sentenced 43 individuals to life in prison in a mass trial on Wednesday, according to the UAE’s state-run news agency, WAM.

The trial, which has been criticized by human rights organizations for allegedly targeting dissidents, involved charges linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group designated as a terrorist organization by the UAE government.

WAM reported the verdicts shortly after human rights advocates released statements announcing the sentences. Alongside the life sentences, five defendants received 15-year prison terms and another five were sentenced to 10 years. The court dismissed the cases of 24 defendants.

According to WAM, the court ruled that those convicted “have worked to create and replicate violent events in the country, similar to what has occurred in other Arab states—including protests and clashes between the security forces and protesting crowds—that led to deaths and injuries and to the destruction of facilities, as well as the consequent spread of panic and terror among people.”

Newsweek reached out to the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal on Wednesday via email for comment.

UAE Activists
Activists hold signs during a demonstration at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Saturday, December 9, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal in the United Arab Emirates sentenced 43…


While WAM did not identify those sentenced by name, and specific details regarding the trial are not clear, Joey Shea, a researcher focusing on the UAE for Human Rights Watch, noted a few prominent figures involved in the case to the Associated Press (AP).

Among those sentenced to life is Nasser bin Ghaith, an academic detained since August 2015 over social media posts. Prominent activist Ahmed Mansoor, known for advocating for free press and democratic freedoms, is also believed to be among those sentenced.

The AP wrote that Mansoor, who won the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015, was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison for his activism.

According to Amnesty International, the breakdown of the known defendants can be seen with “93 percent or (67 out of 72) who were already tried on the same accusations in the last mass trial in 2012-2013. Nearly half (34 out of 72) are signatories of the March 2011 pro-democracy petition that set the UAE authorities on their current repressive course. The overwhelming majority (83%, 60 out of 72) were already being detained beyond the expiry of their sentences from the previous mass trial.”

Newsweek reached out to Amnesty International via email on Wednesday for comment.

In response to the sentencing, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned the verdicts.

“These over-the-top long sentences make a mockery of justice and are another nail in the coffin for the UAE’s nascent civil society. The UAE has dragged scores of its most dedicated human rights defenders and civil society members through a shamelessly unfair trial riddled with due process violations and torture allegations,” Shea said to the AP.

Amnesty International called for the immediate release of the defendants, adding that the trial violated “fundamental principles of law.”

“The UAE must urgently revoke this unlawful verdict and immediately release the defendants. The trial has been a shameless parody of justice and violated multiple fundamental principles of law, including the principle that you cannot try the same person twice for the same crime, and the principle that you cannot punish people retroactively under laws that didn’t exist at the time of the alleged offense,” Devin Kenney, Amnesty International’s UAE Researcher, said in a statement.

Kenney added: “Trying 84 Emiratis at once, including 26 prisoners of conscience and well-known human rights defenders is a scarcely disguised exercise in punishing dissenters that has been further marred by a myriad of fair trial violations, the most serious of which is uninvestigated allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.”