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UAE sentences 5 Qataris to jail for insulting Emirati leaders

Four Qataris were sentenced in absentia to life in prison while the fifth, who is in custody, will be serving 10 years in jail in United Arab Emirates
Pedestrians walk past Dubai's courts building on 4 April, 2010 (AFP)

An Emirati court has jailed five Qatari intelligence officers for insulting the leadership of the United Arab Emirates, local media said Tuesday.

The State Security court sentenced Ali al-Hammadi, who is the only defendant in custody, to 10 years in jail, and fined him one million dirhams ($272,000), Ittihad newspaper reported.

The four others who remain at large were sentenced in absentia to life in prison.

The Qataris were convicted of organising an online campaign to insult UAE leaders, according to the paper.

Hammadi was first accused of being a spy for Qatar when he was arrested in June last year, at the height of a diplomatic row between Qatar and the UAE over Doha's support to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE, along with Bahrain, recalled their envoys from Doha in March 2014 in an unprecedented move triggered by Qatar's alleged meddling in the internal affairs of its Gulf neighbours.

But the ambassadors returned to their posts in December after the fellow monarchies appeared to have ironed out their differences.