Royal on Trial for Torture Caught on Tape

Sheikh Issa reportedly on trial for torture in a tape aired by ABC.

ByLara Setrakian
December 11, 2009, 10:38 AM

DUBAI, Dec. 11, 2009 — -- Sheikh Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi's royal family, is reportedly on trial after appearing to torture an Afghan businessman on a video tape aired on ABC News.

In May the government announced Issa had been arrested and charged in connection with the case. The Financial Times reported today he was currently on trial in a closed-door session, charged with "causing harm and endangering life."

A government spokesman said the Afghan victim, Mohammed Shah Pour, settled out of court for an unspecified sum of money without filing criminal charges.

The Human Rights Office of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department later reopened the case for a criminal investigation after a report by ABC News' Brian Ross aired footage of Al Nahyan beating Pour, shoving sand into his mouth, and hitting him with an SUV.

At the time, Abu Dhabi released a statement saying it "unequivocally condemns the actions depicted on the video." Prosecutors have since interviewed all witnesses, including the victim.

Al Nahyan's lawyer, Habib Al Mulla, is reportedly arguing diminished responsibility, saying his client does not remember anything about the acts shown on tape. Neither Al Mulla nor the prosecutor general's office immediately responded to requests for comment.

In April Abu Dhabi's judiciary said the tape "appeared to represent a violation of human rights," and that it would eventually make the results of its inquiry open to the public.

The case is considered highly significant given the status of the Al Nahyans and their habit of keeping family problems out of the public eye. It made headlines as the U.S. and UAE governments were finalizing cooperation on the country's civilian nuclear program, the first such program in the Arab world.

Torture Case Threatened to Derail Nuclear Program

The resulting congressional concerns over human rights in the UAE threatened to derail the agreement, though it was eventually approved by Congress and by President Obama. U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman traveled to Abu Dhabi earlier this month in a move toward finalizing the deal.

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