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U.S. Questions Acquittal Of UAE Royal

Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan in an undated picture
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States says it has questions about the acquittal of a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family on charges of torturing and raping an Afghan and called for a review to ensure justice was served.

Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a son of the founder of the United Arab Emirates, was exonerated on January 10 of responsibility for the abuse, which was shown in a video first made public by ABC News last year.

ABC identified one of the people taking part in the abuse as Sheikh Issa.

In the footage, which dates to 2004, Afghan grain trader Mohammed Shahpoor was struck with an electric cattle prod, beaten with whips and a plank of wood with a nail in it, and driven over by a car at a desert location.

"We recognize that all members of Emirati society must stand equal before the law, and we remain concerned for the victim of this horrible crime," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

"We would welcome a careful review of the judge's decision and an assessment of all available legal options to ensure that the demands of justice are fully met in this case, and we will continue to closely monitor it," he added. "There are still questions that have been raised by this case."

The comments amounted to rare U.S. criticism of the UAE, a U.S. ally and the world's third largest oil exporter.

A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, offered a more cutting assessment of the trial, saying: "It's not a credible verdict."

The judge did not explain Sheikh Issa's acquittal, saying the reasoning behind the verdict would be published later.

A lawyer for the sheikh said his client was found to have "diminished liability" because two former business associates had drugged him then shot the video to extort money from him.

The two men, Lebanese-American brothers Bassam and Ghassan Nabulsi, were sentenced to five years in absentia and fined the equivalent of $2,723 for what the judge said was drugging, recording, and publishing a video and blackmail.

The incident embarrassed the UAE as it has tried to improve its human rights image after criticism over its treatment of blue-collar workers and to seek U.S. approval for a civilian nuclear energy program.

Crowley said the case would not affect the nuclear deal.