Saturday, 12 December 2009

Sheikh Issa on trial in Abu Dhabi

Source: Financial Times
Abu Dhabi authorities have put on trial Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of the ruling family caught on tape apparently torturing an Afghan business associate, the Financial Times can reveal.

Sheikh Issa, one of 19 sons of Sheikh Zayed, the founding father of the United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi's late ruler, is charged with causing harm and endangering life.
This unprecedented trial, held away from the public eye, will be seen as a barometer for the rule of law in Abu Dhabi, where the lines between the government and ruling families are blurred.
A former aide, Bassam Nabulsi, leaked a video this year that appeared to show Sheikh Issa brutally torturing an Afghan commodities trader, Mohammed Shah Poor, in 2004.
Mr Nabulsi, a US citizen, is suing for damages in a separate case in Texas, claiming Sheikh Issa had him tortured and imprisoned after he threatened to reveal the tapes' existence.
The graphic scenes - censored in the UAE - appear to show Sheikh Issa beating Mr Poor with nails, suffocating him by shoving sand in his mouth and driving a 4x4 vehicle over his body, helped by security guards.
In April the video was broadcast on US television, prompting politicians to question a nuclear cooperation agreement with the UAE .
In May, Abu Dhabi authorities detained Sheikh Issa , who does not hold a government position, and began a criminal investigation, saying "all persons are equal before the law". Despite concern about airing the ruling family's dirty linen, the government has pressed on with the trial.
A spokesman said it would be inappropriate to comment while proceedings are in progress.
The trial of Sheikh Issa and the security guards began two months ago. It has been held discreetly at courts in Abu Dhabi's second city, al-Ain. Sheikh Issa is being detained, according to his lawyer, but his whereabouts are unknown.
Habib al-Mulla, Sheikh Issa's lawyer, says his client does not remember anything about the events captured on video, arguing diminished responsibility.
Mr Mulla claims Mr Nabulsi and his brother manipulated events and used the videos to blackmail the sheikh. "He was drugged with prescriptions provided by the Nabulsis," Mr Mulla said.
Tony Buzbee, Mr Nabulsi's lawyer, rejected those claims as "ridiculous".

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