updated 7/7/2009 12:22:09 PM ET 2009-07-07T16:22:09

Prosecutors in the United Arab Emirates gave a rare progress report into their ongoing investigation into the highly sensitive torture allegations against a member of the country's ruling family that has shocked this Gulf nation.

The state-run WAM news agency said prosecutors have been investigating "events depicted on video," allegedly showing a half brother of the Emirates' president, sodomizing and beating another man and firing an automatic weapon into the sand around him.

The disgrace over allegations against Sheik Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has been without precedent for the ruling family, considered untouchable in this Arab federation of seven semi-independent sheikdoms in the Persian Gulf.

But earlier this year, officials acknowledged the sheik had appeared in a torture video. They started a criminal investigation two months ago and put Issa under house arrest in May.

WAM's report late Monday gave few details, but said the investigation against Issa "is still ongoing" in the Emirates' capital Abu Dhabi.

"The Abu Dhabi Prosecution is currently carrying out its investigation and engaging with those involved in the case in order to reach a clear understanding of ... circumstances and to ensure that justice is served," the report said.

U.S. lawsuit
Torture allegations against Issa surfaced a year ago as part of a U.S. lawsuit, filed by his former business associate and a Texas businessman Bassam Nabulsi. He is suing the sheik for millions of dollars he claimed he was owed for various business deals.

Nabulsi submitted video tapes, which the sheik had allegedly entrusted to him along with financial records and investment documents, to a U.S. federal court in Houston. He also charged Issa and other members of the Emirates ruling family with false imprisonment and with torturing him in an attempt to get the tapes back.

Dilemma for officials
Although members of the ruling Al Nahyan family hold the presidency and key positions in the government, Issa — a half brother of the Emirates' president and a brother of the crown price — has no official role.

Few details have emerged from the private deliberations of the ruling family member over Issa's case — the latest test for the country's long-enshrined two-tier system of justice.

The dilemma for the officials is whether to break tradition and order a courtroom trial for a member of the ruling elite as demanded by international rights groups, or whether to remain loyal to tribal codes and render any possible punishment away from the public eye.

Nabulsi's U.S.-based lawyers have dismissed the official investigation. They are convinced the sheik's case will never get to court and doubt Issa will ever be punished.

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