DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A judge in the United Arab Emirates has approved a medical forensic examination of two detained Libyan Americans to see whether or not they were tortured at the hands of UAE state security officers, their U.S.-based lawyer said Tuesday.
Kamal Eldarat, 59, and his son Mohammed Eldarat, 34, were arrested in August 2014 in the UAE, where they are longtime residents and successful businessmen.
Their U.S. lawyer Greg Craig said it wasn't until almost 18 months later, in January 2016, that they were formally charged with supporting terrorist groups in Libya based on confessions made during interrogation.
A group of U.N. human rights experts recently said they received credible information that the detainees were tortured and forced to sign confessions, and were allegedly held incommunicado in secret locations and in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time.
When contacted by The Associated Press, the UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that U.S. consular officials have been allowed to attend the trial, which began Jan. 18, and the defendants have been allowed to contact their lawyers, diplomatic representatives and families.
Prosecutors charged them with knowingly financing two Libyan rebel groups: The February 17th Brigade and Libya Dawn, which are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood group.
The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, considers the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. The Islamists are viewed as a threat to the ruling systems of the region.
Speaking by telephone from the U.S., Craig said his clients deny the charges and have not had any connection with groups that support terrorism or the Muslim Brotherhood.
However, Craig says his clients did support the National Transitional Council, which headed the internationally-backed Libyan opposition to longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi during the 2011 uprising and then governed Libya after he was killed and before elections were held.
The older Eldarat fled Libya with his family years before the uprising and moved to the U.S., where they were granted political asylum. They moved to the UAE in 1997.
Amal Eldarat told the AP her father was arrested by plain-clothed officers who came to their house in Dubai the day after media reports emerged of the UAE leading airstrikes against Islamist rebel groups in Libya's city of Misrata, where her family originally comes from. Her brother was detained two days later.
Craig said the case against them is political and stems out of a greater "fear of jihadists and the Muslim Brotherhood."
The two are being tried under a counterterrorism law that was passed after they were arrested, he said. Their trial includes two other Libyan co-defendants, including a Canadian dual-national.
Two other Libyans are facing a separate trial in the UAE on similar charges.