ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, (AP) – A state prosecutor in Abu Dhabi claimed Monday that an American man on trial in the Emirates had ties to a group backed by al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The allegations were the first specific details made public against Naji Hamdan, who was arrested last year on terror-related charges and who had claimed he suffered beatings and other abuses from Emirates security agents.
The prosecutor told a judge that Hamdan — a U.S. citizen of Lebanese origins — had direct links to Ansar al-Sunnah, which is one the Sunni insurgent factions associated with al-Qaeda in Iraq. The prosecutor offered no further evidence, but said investigators have copies of Internet communications allegedly written by Hamdan.
The prosecutor’s name was not released by the court, citing security risks.
Hamdan, 43, attended the court session but did not speak before the presiding judge, Mohammed Yousri. The next session in the trial is scheduled for Sept. 14.
The American Civil Liberties Union has accused U.S. authorities of pushing the case in the Emirates because they lack enough evidence for American courts. The ACLU had filed a request for U.S. courts to step in and order U.S. authorities to call off the case.
But U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled earlier this month that he doesn’t have the authority to interfere in a foreign criminal prosecution.
In June, Hamdan denied the charges against him and said he signed a confession because he was tortured. UAE officials have never commented on the allegations.
The U.S. Embassy in the UAE has declined to comment on the case except to say that Hamdan has been given consular support.
Hamdan moved to the U.S. as a college student, became a citizen and ran a successful auto parts business in the Los Angeles area. He also was active in the Islamic community.
He said the FBI began questioning him about whether he had terrorist ties in 1999. He decided to move his family back to the Middle East in 2006 after living in the U.S. for 20 years.
He was arrested in August 2008 and claims he was subjected to beatings, threats to his family and verbal abuse. He wrote in a note that he believes an American was present for at least some of the questioning.