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.
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)