UAE security court sentences 5 activists for political reform calls

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 18: ...

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( Kamran Jebreili / Associated Press ) – With a view of towers along the Sheikh Zayed highway in background, an Asian laborer fixes new fence around a horse race track which was divided to two parts by a new road construction at Al Barsha district Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

By Associated Press, Updated: Sunday, November 27, 1:04 PM

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — A state security court in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday sentenced five activists who have campaigned for political freedoms in the oil-rich Gulf federation to prison terms of up to three years.

The UAE has faced an outcry from rights groups over the trials, which were held in the country’s highest court that normally tries terrorism suspects and has no recourse for appeal.

The UAE has not been hit by the Arab Spring unrest that has spread across much of the rest of the Middle East, including neighboring Bahrain. But the activists’ trial appears to reflect Abu Dhabi’s strategy of snuffing out any sign of dissent that could pose a challenge to the tight political controls in country.

The three-judge panel sentenced one prominent blogger, Ahmed Mansour, to three years in prison. The others received two-year jail terms, including Nasser bin Gaith, an economist who has lectured at the Abu Dhabi branch of Paris’ Sorbonne university. Bin Gaith also served as a legal adviser to the UAE’s armed forces until April, when he was taken into custody from his Dubai home by federal security agents.

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