An Australian man could face the death penalty in the United Arab Emirates after he was accused of espionage last year.
Naim Aziz Abbas, 63, was arrested in Dubai in October 2017, following a series of meetings with an "intelligence officer in a coffee shop," ABC.net.au reported.
Abbas, who was born in Iraq, is an Australian citizen based in Sydney, where he was a train driver, according to The Australian. He moved to Dubai in 2009 to work for the UAE Roads and Transport Authority.
As to the question why Abbas was apprehended, his brother, Adil, told the Australian news website the UAE is using Abbas as a "scapegoat" over his friendly relations with people from Qatar, Oman and Kuwait.
"The case is fabricated and he's being accused of espionage for Qatar against Dubai, and this is ridiculous," Adil stated, adding he is afraid his brother, who is a diabetic, is being tortured in detention.
There aren't any details available, yet, as to why the UAE government accused Abbas of being a spy.
However, it is important to mention here that the UAE is a staunch Saudi ally and last June, both the countries, along with Egypt and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism. It was an unprecedented breach between the most powerful members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the rift has still not been resolved.
Despite vehement Saudi opposition to any sort of relations with Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, in line with their “neutral” foreign policies, have maintained ties with Doha as well as Riyadh.
This approach, it appears, is not sitting well with Saudi Arabia and its allies.
In fact, the Saudi government is currently so hostile toward Doha that it ordered the arrest of Sheikh Salman al-Awda, a prominent progressive cleric, merely for tweeting a message of peace, with regards to a news story about Qatar.
Meanwhile, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs has been trying to get access to Abbas in prison for nearly four months but to no avail.
Under Emirati law, multiple crimes, such as murder, espionage, terrorism, treason, drug trafficking, rape, apostasy etc., carry the death penalty.
Since Abbas has been accused of espionage, his family fears he could face execution, which in the UAE is officially carried out by a firing squad.
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