Woman accused of murder of US teacher in UAE says she's possessed by evil spirits

ABU DHABI (AFP) - An United Arab Emirates (UAE) woman on trial for the murder of an American and attempting to kill another claims she is "possessed by evil spirits" and is mentally ill, local media reported on Tuesday.

Alaa Bader al-Hashemi is accused of stabbing to death teacher Ibolya Ryan, 47, in an Abu Dhabi shopping mall restroom. She is also charged with attempting to murder an American doctor of Egyptian origin by planting a bomb outside his apartment.

The two allegedly militant-inspired attacks took place within hours of each other in the UAE capital on Dec 1 last year.

Hashemi asked a state security court on Monday to provide her with psychological help, saying she had "unreal visions" and would see "ghost-like people" due to a chronic mental illness she claims to suffer from, local daily The National reported.

Emirati authorities have denied international media access to the trial, which began on March 23.

Hashemi was tracked down using CCTV footage of her going into and out of the restroom where the teacher's murder took place.

She was arrested at her home where her car was found with blood on the steering wheel and bomb making materials inside.

The authorities have accused her of having embraced "jihadist ideology and then engaged in terrorist acts in support of the terrorist organisations" - Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

She has also been charged with financing terrorist organisations in the United Arab Emirates, collecting explosive materials and creating an Internet account to promote the "ideas of a terrorist group".

But she was quoted as saying: "I act without thinking or realising. I have had this illness since I was as young as three or four years. I started seeing women, speaking to them and playing with them."

The daily said Hashemi has denied all charges and alleged that she was mistreated during interrogation and forced to confess.

In September, the United Arab Emirates joined the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Last year, it issued a list of 83 Islamist groups it classified as "terrorist organisations".

Violent crime is relatively rare in the UAE.