UAE officials decline to discuss details of the case or comment on the ongoing trial, which only hand-picked media have been allowed to observe. The next session is scheduled for April 16.
But senior security figures such as Dubai police chief Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim have repeatedly raised alarms about alleged Muslim Brotherhood infiltration. In October, the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, told reporters that ‘‘the Muslim Brotherhood does not believe in the nation-state.’’
Egypt has grown increasingly bitter about the comments and crackdowns, including agreements by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council for greater security collaboration in areas including domestic opposition.
At an Arab League summit last month, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi issued thinly veiled warnings to Gulf states to respect Egypt’s policies. Last week, Egypt’s foreign ministry summoned a UAE envoy in Cairo for talks concerning 11 Egyptians detained on charges of training the alleged coup plotters.
‘‘The UAE crackdowns are definitely part of wider efforts across the Gulf against what is seen as threats,’’ said Rori Donaghy, a coordinator at the London-based Emirates Center for Human Rights. ‘‘The collective idea of security in the region means we will likely be seeing more arrests and more trials with narratives such as coup plots.’’
So far, the UAE’s case against the 94-member group has been built around social media posts and interviews on issues such as the wave of changes in the region and the limited public voice in political affairs of the UAE, which is led by a federation of seven ruling families.
In one court session, the defense lawyer tried to poke holes in claims about allegedly subversive literature favored by al-Islah, including works by Muslim Brotherhood writer Sayyid Qutb, who was hanged by Egyptian authorities in 1966. The books, the lawyer noted, are not banned in the UAE.
Dubai-based rights activist Ahmed Mansour sees the trial as part of the UAE’s attempts to crush any group that could be ‘‘physiologically empowered by the Arab Spring.’’
Mansour and four others — including a former legal adviser to the UAE’s armed forces — were among the first to face arrests for alleged anti-state crimes in early 2011 after signing an online petition urging for political reforms, including free elections for parliament.
‘‘It’s clear that there are some agreements between some of the (Gulf) counties, on the highest and most powerful levels, that no chances should be taken and no compromise should be allowed,’’ he said. ‘‘This is happening no matter what the cost is and how painful that could be on internal or international levels.’’