Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Sunday, 10 January 2010

UAE sheikh cleared in videoed torture case

Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan (file)
Sheikh Issa al-Nahyan's lawyer said he had been drugged

A member of the ruling family of the United Arab Emirates has been cleared of the torture of a business associate.

Lawyers for Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the president's brother, said the court ruled he had been drugged and so was "unaware of his actions".

The incident came to light when a videotape was circulated showing the violent beating, said to have taken place in 2004.

It was the first reported investigation of a UAE ruling family member.

His lawyer, Habib al-Mulla, said the ruling had "clarified Sheikh Issa's position that he was a victim of conspiracy" over the torture of Mohammed Shah Poor.

"At the same time, it's proven justice to Mohammed Shah Poor and it showed who were the actual people who were behind whole saga," Reuters quoted Mr Mulla as saying.

He said the court had "accepted our defence that the sheikh was under the influence of drugs that left him unaware of his actions," the AFP news agency reported.

The defence had previously claimed Sheikk Issa had been drugged by two men - American-Lebanese brothers Ghassan and Bassam Nabulsi - who recorded the beating in order to blackmail him.

A screengrab of the video showing a man shooting near the victim
The video showed a man shooting the ground near the sitting victim

The Nabulsi brothers were sentenced in their absence to five years in prison for drugging Sheikh Hassan and fined 10,000 dirham ($2,723:£1,700).

Three other men were sentenced to between one and three years for their role in the torture.

'Equality sign'

The video, circulated last year, shows Sheikh Issa repeatedly beating Mr Poor, a grain merchant of Afghan origin, and running him over with a car.

Several other men assist in the tape, including one in a uniform of the security forces. The incident came to light after US television network ABC broadcast clips of the tape, which was smuggled out of the UAE by a former business associate of Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Reports say the merchant had lost a consignment of grain belonging to Sheikh Issa worth $5,000 (£3,300). He survived the abuse, but needed extensive hospital treatment.

Mr Mulla said the fact the trial had taken place was "a sign that the UAE is showing that everyone in this country can be put in front of law and judged".

The BBC's Christian Fraser in the region says the verdict will do little to satisfy those who have long criticised the Emirates abject human rights record.

They will argue it proves once again that the extended royal family and those Emiratis in positions of power are often above the rule of law, says our correspondent.

The UAE is a federation of seven wealthy emirates with substantial oil reserves and a large expatriate population. Each emirate is run by a ruling family and citizens are granted few political rights.

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