Abu Dhabi sheik acquitted in torture case


A member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family was found not guilty Sunday of the torture and rape of an Afghan in a case that has embarrassed the Gulf emirate and raised questions over human rights.

The judge reading the verdict at a court in the United Arab Emirates did not give a reason why Sheik Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan was exonerated of responsibility for abuse shown in a video first made public by ABC television last year.

ABC identified one of the abuse participants as Issa.

But a lawyer for the sheik, a son of UAE founder Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, said his client was found to have “diminished liability” because two former business associates had drugged him beforehand then taken the video to extort money from him.

The two men, Lebanese American brothers Bassam and Ghassan Nabulsi, were sentenced to five years in absentia and fined more than $2,700 for what the judge said was drugging; recording and publishing a video; and for blackmail. The judge said the reasoning behind the verdicts would be published later.

Issa, who arrived in court smiling, kissed his lawyer on the head in thanks after sentencing was announced but made no comment. The lawyer, Habib Mulla, said the emirates had demonstrated its commitment to the rule of law. “The fact that this trial is taking place is a sign that the UAE is showing that everyone in this country can be put in front of law and judged,” he said.

Mohammed Shahpoor, the Afghan grain trader who was abused, was in court and showed no reaction when the verdicts were read out.

A Syrian national was given one year in jail for beating Shahpoor, and an Indian and a Palestinian were both sentenced to three years for sodomizing him with a stick.

In the video, which dates to 2004, Shahpoor is seen being struck with an electric cattle prod, beaten with whips and a plank of wood with a nail in it, and driven over by a car at a desert location near the oasis of Al Ain. The man identified as Issa pours what appears to be salt into Shahpoor’s wounds.