DUBAI The United Arab Emirates has ordered 94 citizens to be tried on charges of seeking to seize power in the U.S.-allied Gulf Arab country, the attorney general said in a statement on Sunday.
State news agency WAM quoted the attorney general, Salem Saeed Kubaish, as saying the suspects had publicly called for adherence to the Islamic religion when in fact they were secretly plotting to take over the oil-producing country.
"Their unannounced aims were to seize power and confronting the main principles which the rule is based on," the statement said. "They had plotted for that discreetly at secret meetings they held in their homes, farms and other places where they tried to conceal and hide what they were plotting from the concerned authorities."
The UAE last year rounded up about 60 people, many members of al-Islah, an Islamist group suspected of links to the Muslim Brotherhood which is banned in the country, according to a privately owned newspaper.
Al-Khaleej newspaper said in September the detained Islamists had confessed to setting up a secret organisation with an armed wing with the aim of seizing power and establishing an Islamist state in the UAE.
Kubaish said the suspects used social media and the Internet with the aim of creating a public opinion hostile to the UAE government and its leadership.
"They also communicated with the international Muslim Brotherhood organisation and other similar organisations outside the country, asked them for help, expertise and financial support to serve their undeclared goal of seizing power," the statement said.
Al-Islah says its mission was to advocate peaceful reform and it has no connections with the global Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928. The group has risen to elected power in Egypt after the 2011 uprising that forced out Hosni Mubarak.
The UAE, a major oil exporter and Middle East business hub, tolerates no organised political opposition.
Concerned about possible spillover from the Arab Spring, it has acted to isolate dissidents, stripping seven Islamists of their citizenship last year on national security grounds.
Islamist demands include more civil rights and greater power for the Federal National Council, a quasi-parliamentary body that advises the government but has no legislative power. It is appointed by the UAE's Sunni Muslim rulers.
The attorney general said members of the group had sought to penetrate institutions of the state, including schools, universities and ministries. Members of the group had invested revenues from dues and charity funds they had obtained to set up commercial enterprises and real estate investments held in their own names to conceal their activities from the state.
(Writing by Sami Aboudi; editing by William Maclean/Mark Heinrich)