7 Emirates Employees Accused Of Terror Plot

Filed Under: Emirates

Let me say up front that this isn’t quite as straightforward as it sounds, and the accusations against these people are regarding something that was allegedly planned over a year ago.

Seven Emirates employees accused of planning terror attack

As was reported a while back (though this is the first time I’m hearing about it), eight Lebanese nationals have been detained in the UAE for over a year, and seven of them are Emirates employees who have been at the company for over 15 years, including pursers, flight attendants, and senior managers.

Prosecutors have accused these people of communicating with Hezbollah and “collecting sensitive security information from the UAE’s ports and airports, where Hezbollah agents filmed sensitive places that are not allowed to be photographed.”

Apparently these images and videos were released to Hezbollah, who leaked them to Iranian intelligence services.

Obviously it’s incredibly alarming to think that something like this was being planned (especially in light of what happened yesterday in Sri Lanka), and even more alarming when you consider that most of them were airline employees, given the increased access they have.

But there’s another side to the story…

Has there been a fair trial?

Obviously eight people plotting a terrorist attack on the UAE sounds awful, but the Human Rights Watch is taking issue with the treatment these people have received.

The men have been held in captivity for over a year, and have been held in “prolonged solitary confinement and denied access to their families, legal counsel, and the evidence against them.”

According to HRW:

Families members said they feared their relatives had been mistreated in detention. “His teeth were all broken, and his ear looked mangled,” a family member said of one detainee. “He said it was from all the beatings he got to the face. He said that after he fell unconscious one time, they continued to kick him. For five days, he wasn’t allowed to sit or to sleep. He was chained and his eyes were covered. Until this day, when he leaves his cell, he is blindfolded.”

At least three detainees told family members that state security forces forced them to sign statements while blindfolded and under duress, and one said they forced him to sign a blank paper.

Bottom line

It’s hard to decide what to make of this. Obviously these accusations are incredibly alarming, though there are also questions regarding how fair the trial has been.

To some extent the UAE media will also control the narrative here, so we may never fully know what happened. In many ways I’m a bit surprised it came out that these were Emirates employees, since that doesn’t look good for the airline.

(Tip of the hat to Paddle Your Own Kanoo)

  1. Today would be the right day for you ask those questions, especially after we learned that in addition to yesterday’s horrific attacks a crude undetonated pipe bomb was found in proximity of the Colombo international airport.

    Jon Lee Anderson of the New Yorker posted on Twitter today:
    “Whoever did this studied the MO of jihadis who came before, especially Mumbai, Brussels & Paris: complex attacks @ multiple locations=maximum impact. In this case aimed at Christians (churches/Easter Sunday) & internationals (hotels/airport).#SriLanka a soft,new target.”

    8 attacks in 3 cities … raises lots of questions, most of them very troubling.

  2. @Lucky–You’re quite right about controlling the narrative. The reality is you can never trust the official version in this part of the world.

  3. Working in an airline is great cover for intelligence gathering, you have access to a lot of sensitive areas and can provide intel on airport security, customs and immigration procedures. But saying this info is predominately used to plan violence is a bit of stretch in most cases and the UAE probably knows this, that’s the trumped up part of the charge. Much more likely this sensitive information is used for smuggling people, money, arms etc., activities that intelligence agencies all over the world engage in.

  4. “He said that after he fell unconscious one time, they continued to kick him.”

  5. I was once in an informal meeting with an officer of a Middle Eastern military and he said that if someone bombs the Iranians it will be the UAE. He said that the gov’t did have patience for Iran’s nonsense so there is obvious tension between the two countries.

  6. UAE have done a great job to keep their country completely free of terrorism while being an absolute Muslim majority. That says a lot.

  7. I have been living in the UAE for over 15 years and this is one of the most secure and safe places in the planet. No accusation is made without proven reasons and they have the right to keep this country safe and secure, one of the reason why many of us decided to make this our home. I am totally with the country’s measures to keep itself safe and secure. We aren’t talking of one or two people but quite a number. From my side and from past experience, I have total trust in the authorities.

  8. @NS–You must have been living under a rock for those 15 years. Have a look at the Detained in Dubai website for a start.

  9. @Malc – this is the difference between you and me. Whoever I knew that ended up in trouble with the law, did something wrong, very wrong. Drug traffickers for instance, I have no mercy. Zero! And there are plenty of them found red handed. In Dubai there are almost 3 million expats living since many years without a single issue. Read less titles and hear from residents, better 😉

  10. @NS I live in the Middle East and have heard from residents, I assure you. I find your trust of the authorities a bit naive.

  11. Poor judicial practices and human rights violations, especially of foreign labourers, are widespread in the UAE. HRW identifies several critical human rights violations by the state. The real story on the so alleged terrorists will be hard to distinguish through the national narrative. This is coming from someone who has covered journalism in the UAE.

  12. @Malc, it’s not just “this part of the world”. Every country has their own “narrative” of what goes on an censors things they don’t like. Classic example recently is surrounding Julian Assange. The actions of the UK and the USA (who, incidentally also detain and torture people without charge) proves that the veil of “free speech” is simply that – a thin veil. If you say you live in the Middle East, you must be in a bubble surrounding yourself with your own propaganda.

  13. @Dennis–So you wouldn’t draw a distinction between the veracity of official information in the UAE and, say, New Zealand? And you think their presses are equally free?

  14. The veracity of official information it is definitely a matter of perception. I am European and European countries have often played with official information. In Italy there’s a case of Stefano Cucchi, killed while detained by the Police and they almost got away with it. Truth came out only 9 years later. So what are we talking about? Veracity of official information? Each one of us live with their perceptions and prejudices.

  15. @NS, thank you – yes I know where you’re coming from and felt I had to say something.

    @Malc, I have travelled to and lived in multiple countries and my experience is that each country has their own viewpoint which they believe to be true and subsequently present to their audience. EVERY country is guilt of skewing the facts in their favour. Just because you don’t agree with it, doesn’t make it false. I don’t want to argue here, this is just my observation (as you have your own observation). I personally think it’s better to learn from your own experience and to gather news from multiple sources/countries, formulating your own truth based on that.

  16. @Dennis–I can’t live in a relativist world, where all countries are equally bad. I don’t have any illusions about what Western countries are capable of. Right now I’m in the middle of Ben Taub’s New Yorker article on the War on Terror. It’s a catalogue of American abuses. But the point is a fine magazine like the New Yorker exposes such abuses. I can see no such tradition of free and fine journalism in the Emirates or in most countries in the Middle East. What you’re saying sounds like indifference to what’s been happening in Egypt these past couple of years.

  17. @Malc, I didn’t say anything was “bad” or “good”. I do see your point but this is a narrow definition of “freedom of press”. For example, nowhere was I starved of international news like I was when I lived in the US for two years. I HAD to read other nations’ news to get a sense on what is happening in the world because everything I read in the US was surrounded by an “American-centric” bubble.

    Additionally, most information that is accessible is only so because of commercial or political interests. There is an incredible amount of news/information that is filtered out for this reason. Hence my disdain for the supposed “freedom” of press in countries like the USA. Again, I don’t have a problem with that so much, as it is a perspective. My problem is when nations declare that others are not “free” when they have a warped view on that themselves.

  18. @Dennis — I take your point, and unilaterally dismissing a country in a snobbish or racist kind of way is silly. Perhaps my original comment was a bit flippant. But coming from New Zealand to live in the Middle East, I was shocked by the sheer scale of arbitrary detention and the way governments here pretend it doesn’t exist. Moreover, a free press can act as a check on such injustice (better late than never, in the New Yorker’s case). I do think that it’s particularly out of hand in this part of the world — Egypt is currently (possibly) the most egregious example. But perhaps we disagree about the scale of it, or the scale of it compared with the West.

  19. @Malc, fair enough. Thank you for your thoughts and insight. It’s a particularly interesting subject for me.

  20. Having spent over 5 years in the US Army Intelligence with Top Secret and above clearance, the fact they where caught should not surprise you. Around the world hundreds if not thousands of these jihadis plots are stopped every year. You dont hear about most of them because that would cut off the intelligence gathering

  21. “… nowhere was I starved of international news like I was when I lived in the US for two years. I HAD to read other nations’ news to get a sense on what is happening in the world …”

    Sadly, that’s exactly how it is here in the United States — the vast majority of news outlets are government controlled, and they feed us only what they want us to hear. Anyone who strays outside of that narrative is scoffed at and called a “conspiracy theorist” — that handy-dandy term that the government came up with to make the skeptics sound like nothing more than a bunch of nut cases.

  22. @Lucky/Ben ‘To some extent the UAE media will also control the narrative here’. Not to split hairs, but in these totalitarian countries, the government maintains TOTAL CONTROL over the narrative.
    @NS, Your total faith in local authorities is somewhat ignorant. That being said, you are correct that most of us who live here are able to keep out of trouble. However, good luck to you if you have an altercation with a local/national! BTW, remember not to say or write anything nice about Qatar or you will be fined and go to prison.

  23. @SullyofDoha

    What a nonsense. There is no perfect place on earth. When I say that I have faith in the local authorities I am not guaranteeing 100% that thousands of government servants will be honest and diligent. There’s no place on earth where this can be guaranteed.

    In terms of Qatar mind you that I have attended the Asian Cup in which Qatar won the final (with a large number of naturalized players) and guess what? There were hundreds of Omanis at the stadium supporting Qatar with scarfs and flags of Qatar and none of them got in any trouble. However, is this really pertaining to the topic of the article?

  24. @Malc Do you feel safer after moving from New Zealand to UAE? After all noone attacks places of worship in UAE….
    BTW is the travel advisory for New Zealand been lifted? Is it safe to go to New Zealand now for summer holidays?
    My two planning options were Sri Lanka and New Zealand. I guess I will just spend it in Kashmir. Much safer.

  25. Pardon me doc.

    Am pretty sure that you would put down a rabid dog (or a pig for that matter).

    Why the un or official narrative matters anymore? They are not doing recce for valentine flowers and what matters is the official handling of the situation in averting terror down the road.

    One looses tooth by falling hard on a floor (as I have) and probably that moron fell one too many times


  26. My brother is one of the detainees, he has been in solitary confinement for over a year and he has been tortured and forced to sign documents while being blindfolded . The evidence they have against the detainees are a whole bunch of photographs at the airport and some other photographs that were apparently deleted and “couldn’t be retrieved”, some blueprints of airplanes that they are provided as part of their training as cabin crews, some record of money transfers that they made to their families back home and the statements taken from then under coercion and torture .. now obviously their media doesn’t want you to hear about these rubbish evidence but obviously have no issue stating that they are “terrorist”.

    Take a look at our Twitter page Freedom For Lebanese Detained in UAE (@FreeDetainedLeb): https://twitter.com/FreeDetainedLeb?s=09

    and our petition http://chng.it/p24LcsBSCJ

  27. @ Prabuddha — I think why the world was so shocked by the Christchurch massacre was the scarcity of terrorist incidents in New Zealand. It’s such a quiet place (one reason why I’m not actually that fond of the place).

    I wasn’t talking about safety from terrorism, anyway. I was talking about arbitrary detention and the general lack of natural justice in the Middle East. I think most Westerners in the Middle East are relatively safe, but I wasn’t so much talking about the privileged.

  28. But didn’t Obama say that Iran posed no threat to anybody outside of its borders (the hundreds of people it killed in the Synagogue in Buenos Aires, the multiple terror attacks in Lebanon and its occupation of that country notwithstanding)? This has to be wrong.

  29. If there was clear evidence these people broke the law, human rights violations wouldn’t have been needed. Therefore I feel a bit sick about this. Because if you violate human rights then you are no better than the terrorists themselves. If you have evidence, you don’t have to break human rights unless you’re a cruel person no better than a terrorist or you simply don’t have enough evidence but still want to detain the people for whatever reason. Long story short, UAE, if you want me to believe you do it fair. Because if you have enough evidence to convince me you don’t need to be unfair right?

  30. “Terrorism” is a charge that quite a few governments, of all types, add to accusations against people they don’t like – it sounds good to the general international audience – after all everybody respectable is against terrorism.
    The US seems to be unique in doing something similar with “wire fraud” – whatever the actual wrongdoing somebody is accused of, if it involved a computer it’s called “wire fraud”.

  31. In My 27 years of living in the UAE and coming from USA I have never felt safer then I do here in Dubai. On another note : I have also learned that giving my opinion on issues as this is not my business. You guys are brave. I would never try to predict what is or is not happening to these guys.

  32. Hmm I wonder how someone can tell that they continued to be kicked after the fell unconscious… surely after you fall unconscious you don’t remember what happens next….

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