DUBAI (Reuters) - An Islamist group in the United Arab Emirates denied reports that its members had set up an armed wing with the aim of seizing power and establishing an Islamic state in the Gulf Arab country.
Local media in the UAE reported on Thursday that Islamists, who had been detained by the Gulf state’s authorities in the last few months, confessed to setting up a secret organization with an armed wing.
“These accusations are not true and are baseless, except in the minds of those who fabricated them,” the al-Islah group said in a statement sent to Reuters on Sunday.
“How is it possible that a group of civilians consisting of university professors, teachers, lawyers and businessmen turn into a military organization?”
The UAE is holding some 60 members of al-Islah which is suspected of having links with Muslim Brotherhood organization - banned in the UAE, the privately owned al-Khaleej newspaper reported. Two other newspapers, including state-owned al-Bayan, ran similar reports. None gave named sources.
A UAE official declined to comment on the reports, saying the matter was subject to legal proceedings.
UAE’s state prosecutor has charged the detainees with founding an organization that violates state security, having links to foreign organizations and insulting the political leadership, al-Khaleej reported. Their case will be referred to the relevant court soon, it said.
Al-Islah, which says its mission was to advocate peaceful reforms, said it has no connections with the global Muslim Brotherhood organization, which was founded in Egypt in 1928. The group has risen to power in Egypt after the uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak to step down last year.
“The (group’s) allegiance to the UAE government is based on its belief in the legitimacy of the existing ruling system,” al-Islah said in the statement.
Dubai police chief Dhahi Khalfan said in March that Western intelligence agencies told him the Muslim Brotherhood were plotting to create Gulf governments which would pay allegiance to the group.
The UAE, a significant oil exporter and Middle East business hub, tolerates no organized political opposition.
Concerned about possible spillover from the Arab Spring, it has acted fast to isolate dissidents, stripping seven Islamists of their citizenship last year on national security grounds.
The UAE said then that the men, who were naturalized as Emiratis, were originally of non-Emirati origin.
Islamists’ demands in the UAE include more civil rights and greater power for the Federal National Council, a quasi-parliamentary body that advises the government - appointed by the UAE’s Sunni Muslim rulers - but has no legislative power.
Editing by Louise Ireland and Sami Aboudi