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Senior Hezbollah security official makes rare visit to UAE to discuss detained Lebanese

BEIRUT — A senior official with Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group made a rare visit to the United Arab Emirates to discuss the cases of a dozen Lebanese citizens detained in the oil-rich nation over alleged links to the Lebanese group, Hezbollah said Thursday.

The United Arab Emirates, like other Arab gulf countries, considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization and over the years has detained and deported dozens of Lebanese citizens over alleged links to the group.

A Hezbollah statement said Wafik Safa, the head of the group’s Liaison and Coordination Unit, visited the UAE where he met officials involved in the cases of Lebanese detained there. It did not give further details, but said there were hopes of reaching a good outcome.

The UAE gave no official comment on the visit.

Lebanese media outlets reported that Safa’s visit followed mediation by Syrian President Bashar Assad with officials in the UAE. After years of backing the Syrian opposition, the UAE restored relations with Damascus in 2018 and earlier this year the first ambassador for the emirates took office in Damascus.

Hassan Alayan, who heads a committee of Lebanese deported from the UAE, told The Associated Press that there are 12 Lebanese citizens held in the UAE, including three who have not been charged. He said the others are three who were sentenced to life in prison, four who are serving 15-year sentences and two who were sentenced to 10 years in jail.

Alayan, who was deported from the UAE in 2009 with his wife and four children after he had lived there for 27 years, charges against Lebanese in the UAE have ranged from being Hezbollah members to being drug smugglers and money launderers for the Iran-backed group.

“All these charges are fabricated,” Alayan said.

In May of last year, the UAE released 10 Lebanese citizens who were arrested there about two months earlier. The release came after the death earlier in May of a Lebanese man who was detained in the UAE on unknown charges.

Following charges against some Lebanese in the UAE in 2019, Amnesty International said in a statement at the time that the trial of the men “failed to meet international fair trial standards,” as the evidence included confessions that were “extracted under duress, and the defendants were detained incommunicado for months and denied access to lawyers during interrogation and investigation.”

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