A Canadian man detained for more than a year in the United Arab Emirates has pleaded not guilty to three terror-related charges on the first day of his long-awaited trial.
Salim Alaradi’s lawyer says his client learned Monday he was charged with funding terrorist organizations, supporting terrorist organizations, and co-operating with terrorist organizations.
Paul Champ says two specific groups — the February 17 Brigades and the Libyan Dawn — were named.
Alaradi’s family and lawyers had previously received no explanation from U.A.E. authorities for his continued detention and there have been allegations he has been tortured behind bars.
Champ says neither he nor Alaradi’s nephew were allowed to attend Monday’s hearing at the State Security Chamber of the U.A.E. Federal Supreme Court.
But the Champ says Canada’s ambassador was able to observe, as were two U.S. diplomats, since Alaradi is being tried with two Americans.
The case has been adjourned to Feb. 15, Champ said in an email.
“Despite our serious concerns with the fairness of this trial, and obviously the allegations of torture, we remain optimistic that Mr. Alaradi will be acquitted of all charges and allowed to leave the country,” he told The Canadian Press.
Few details about the case were provided but “the family finds the allegations very hard to understand as Mr. Alaradi has not lived in Libya in over 25 years and is not politically involved in his former country,” he said.
“As well, these groups no longer exist and in any event were internationally recognized as allies against Gadhafi and were never viewed as terrorist organizations by the (United Nations) or any country.”
Alaradi’s family is grateful that the Canadian ambassador personally attended the hearing, Champ said.
“I think it sent a very strong message to UAE authorities that Canada takes torture very seriously,” he said.
Alaradi, a 46-year-old Canadian of Libyan origin, was running a business in Dubai when he was abruptly arrested in August 2014.
He was born in Libya and immigrated to Canada from the U.A.E. in 1998, settling down in Vancouver with his family. He decided to return to the U.A.E. in 2007 to run a home appliance business with his brother.
He and his family were on vacation when he was arrested.