DUBAI: The top security court in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday sentenced 38 people to prison in connection to a cell accused of plotting terrorist attacks and seeking to overthrow the government to create an Islamic state.
Prosecutors said the “Minaret Youth” cell included Emirati as well as non-Emirati members, though the nationalities and names of all the accused have not been made public.
The group had also been charged with forming committees to recruit young Emiratis and of planning to assassinate top government officials in the UAE, which is home to the Western-friendly city-states of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Some members had also been accused of being members of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front.
The state-run WAM news agency reported that the Federal Supreme Court’s state security chambers sentenced 11 of the defendants to life in prison, though two were tried in absentia. Another two were sentenced to 15 years, 13 were sentenced to 10 years, six to three years, two to five years, and four to six months in prison.
Seven others were acquitted, according to WAM. The official report did not give details on what the defendants had been found guilty of.
The trial, which began late August, was not open to the public or members of the independent press.
Abu Dhabi-based The National reported on its website Sunday that only two defendants pleaded guilty in court. The National said the group’s leader, Khalid Abdulla Kalantar, had been a preacher at a mosque in Dubai who encouraged and promoted extremism.
In recent years, the UAE has clamped down on even nonviolent Islamist groups, sentencing dozens of opposition figures to prison. The UAE is part of the U.S.-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against extremists from Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.