United Arab Emirates: Omani citizen released after unjust trial and sentencing

21.04.21

On 17 April 2021, Omani citizen Abdullah Al-Shamsi was released from prison in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and handed over to his family. Al-Shamsi was sentenced to life in prison last year after being accused of spying for Qatar.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes his release but condemns the role of the State Security Apparatus in the torture and targeting of innocent citizens including activists.

On 09 March 2021, GCHR in cooperation with the Wejha Centre for Studies, released a report entitled “Torture in the United Arab Emirates: The Tolerance Charade”, which documented his case.

The report states that, “Abdullah Al-Shamsi is an Omani national who was a 19-year-old high school student at the time of his arrest in the UAE on 18 August 2018. He was held by State Security Apparatus in solitary confinement where he was subjected to torture. Al-Shamsi had already been suffering from depression, kidney cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. He is now 21 years old, and his condition has deteriorated leading to a breakdown in his mental health. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in May 2020, after a reportedly unfair trial.”

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention submitted a report on Al-Shamsi's case, which concluded that his detention was arbitrary.

The report by GCHR and Wejha added the following, “During interrogation in the first three months following his arrest, Al-Shamsi was tortured by State Security agents through beatings, electric shocks, denailing and other methods. He was unable to contact a lawyer throughout his pre-trial detention, and the interrogators forced him while he was blindfolded to sign a confession which was used as evidence in court. His family members saw signs of torture on his body in February 2019 and March 2020.”

His family did not know about his arrest until 16 September 2018, when members of the State Security Apparatus brought him to the house for a search, as they confiscated all his electronic devices and took him away again without submitting any judicial warrants for a search or arrest.

Despite suffering from depression, he was placed in solitary confinement in a secret prison belonging to the State Security Apparatus until 14 February 2019, when his family was allowed to visit him for the first time in Al-Wathba Prison.

He was brought to trial before the Federal Court of Appeal of Abu Dhabi, which included three hearings that began on 05 February 2020 and ended on 06 May 2020, and the hearing to announce the verdict was held remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to reliable sources he was accused of espionage for Qatar, which he denied altogether.

The case of Abdullah Al-Shamsi constitutes a blatant disregard for due process by the UAE judiciary, as a man suffering from many diseases, including depression and cancer, was sentenced to life imprisonment, based on confessions extracted from him by force, according to reliable reports. In addition, his trial lacked the minimum international standards required for a fair trial and legal procedures, and he was prevented from seeking a lawyer during the investigation.