A court in the United Arab Emirates has sentenced a cabin crew Safety and Security (SEP) Trainer to life in prison after finding him guilty of a Hezbelloh-inspired terror plot against a “vital facility” in the UAE – Believed to be Dubai International Airport (DXB). Three other men received life sentences in absentia, while a fifth man was sentenced to 10-years imprisonment for the role he played in the plot.
Abdel Rahman Talal Chouman had lived in Dubai for over 15-years, working for Emirates Airlines for much of that time. He was arrested, along with six other Emirates employees (believed to be cabin crew and pursers) and one other suspect, in December 2017 accused of planning a bomb attack in the UAE.
Prosecutors claimed that Chouman and others had used their positions at the Dubai-based airline to access sensitive information and conduct hostile reconnaissance. During police raids, prosecutors claim a gun was recovered and that a practice run had already been carried out by the group.
Chouman, who is originally from Lebanon, would have had in-depth knowledge of both Emirates’ security processes, as well as those used by Dubai International Airport. The terror cell was allegedly orchestrated by the Lebanese political and militant group Hezbollah – which is outlawed and classed as a terror organisation in the UAE.
Human rights groups, however, claim the men did not have a fair trial and were subjected to abuse, torture and extended periods of solitary confinement during the 14-months they spent in an Abu Dhabi prison. Amnesty International says Chouman was beaten for six hours before he was forced to sign a confession which he was not allowed to read.
Human Rights Watch claims that some of the men weren’t given access to lawyers and their legal teams weren’t allowed to review the evidence against them.
The State Security chamber of the Federal Appeal Court in Abu Dhabi has cleared the five other cabin crew members of any wrongdoing but they remain in prison while prosecutors decided whether to appeal the verdict.
While Dubai and the rest of the UAE are considered very safe, with a well-equipped security apparatus, growing tension in the region has been a cause of concern in the last few years. There are growing fears about a regional conflict with Iran – which supports Hezbollah.
In the last few weeks, several UAE container ships were attacked in waters close to Oman – the attack was blamed on Iranian forces. The increasingly hostile rhetoric has even led to a partial thawing of relations with Qatar as senior government officials are being touted as mediators with the Iranians.
In the last 12-months, Yemeni Houthi rebels have also claimed to have carried out drone bomb attacks on both Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH). There’s no evidence that the rebels actually managed either attack but the UAE continues to support the Saudi-led proxy way in Yemen.