ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates broadened its crackdown on perceived threats and risked deepening its rift with Egypt on Wednesday with plans to bring 30 Egyptian and UAE suspects to trial for alleged coup plotting linked to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
The UAE has faced complaints from rights groups and others for its arrests and other security measures since Arab Spring. The regional uprisings have not brought any street protests in the UAE, which allows no political parties and swiftly moves to crush any displays of public dissent, but the upheavals have boosted online calls for more political openness.
A total of 94 UAE nationals, including lawyers and professors, are awaiting a July 2 verdict on charges of links to a local Islamist group seeking to topple the Western-allied ruling system across the country’s seven semi-autonomous city-states.
The expansion of the prosecutions to Egyptians is likely to increase tensions with the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Eleven of the Egyptian suspects were already in custody.
The official news agency WAM quoted a senior prosecutor, Rashid Ahmed al-Dhanhani, as saying the suspects allegedly recruited members and raised money for the Brotherhood, “seeking to seize power.”
The UAE move followed disparaging comments against the Emirates earlier this week by a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader in Egypt.
Essam el-Erian, deputy head of the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice party, told a parliamentary committee Monday that Egyptian school teachers did not do a good job educating natives of the UAE.
“The Emiratis will be enslaved by the Persians,” he said — alluding to tensions between the UAE and Iran, including disputes over three strategic Persian Gulf islands held by Tehran but claimed by the Emirates.
Egypt and the UAE enjoyed close relations under the 29-year rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, when the Gulf nation ranked among the top investors in Egypt. An estimated 1 million Egyptians live and work in the Emirates, making a significant contribution to Egypt’s ailing economy through their remittances sent home to their families.
Associated Press writer Hamza Hendawi in Cairo contributed to this report.