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ABU DHABI: Acquittal of prince's brother in UAE torture case met with Arab outrage

January 11, 2010 |  7:30 am

"An abortion of justice," "the peak of farce and a mockery of humanity," and "unconvincing and clearly fabricated."

Those are just some of the words of outrage used by Arab commentators to describe an United Arab Emirates court decision to acquit Abu Dhabi royal Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan of torture and rape charges a graphic videotape of Issa abusing an Afghan merchant surfaced last year.

Al Ain Criminal Court ruled Sunday that Sheikh Issa, a brother of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nanyan, "cannot be held accountable for his actions because he was drugged" by former associates Bassam and Ghassan Nabulsi. 

The court did not dispute the fact that Issa is among those depicted in the tape torturing the Afghan with cattle prods and at one point running him over repeatedly with a sport-utility vehicle.

As of Monday afternoon, over 200 comments had been posted on Al Jazeera's story about the acquittal, almost all of them scathing invectives against the court's ruling, the royal family and the Emirates' justice system.

Uae-torture "The injustice is obvious, the attack on the weak is obvious, and all the criminal can do when faced with his guilt is claim insanity from drugs and alcohol," wrote "Emirati and Proud" from Abu Dhabi. "We live in the 21st century, the information age, and the world has become a village, yet there are still those among us who...look on us as ignorant people who are easily tricked..."

Nabil in Tunisia called for Issa to be brought before an international criminal court.

Mohammad Amer in Holland asked sarcastically, "Can't you people see that the drug forced open his mouth and made him drink it, and the stick is the one that was doing the hitting, not the hand of the nobleman's son?"

The "nobleman's son" refers to a famous story about how the Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab doled out justice to those who abused their power.

The story goes that one day a poor Egyptian Christian came to Omar and complained that the governor's son had become angry after losing a horse race to the Egyptian and beat him, shouting: "I am a nobleman's son!"

After summoning the offender, Omar handed the Egyptian a whip and told him to flog the nobleman's son, then chastised the governor for treating his people as slaves.

A few commentators stepped forward to defend the ruling.

Abu Abdullah Mohammad Mahmoud wrote, "I have lived in this country for 25 years and never seen the kind of injustice and contempt depicted in this fake tape. This is a conspiracy to tarnish the image of Sheikh Issa -- God protect him -- and the image of this great country."

But the author of the popular blog "An Emirati's Thoughts: the Sheikh of Controversy," was vehemently opposed to the ruling. 

He posted an excerpt from a BBC report quoting Issa's lawyer, Habib al-Mulla, saying the trial was "a sign that the UAE is showing that everyone in this country can be put in front of law and judged."

"Mr. Al-Mulla," Emirati wrote in response, "lying mercenaries such as yourself will rot in hell."

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: A screen shot from the videotape. Credit: ABC News via YouTube

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