UAE: Jail Sentences for Five Activists

UAE Blogger Ahmed Mansoor (IFEX)

 

Update 1 [28 Nov 2011/1 PM GMT]: The day after the court decisions were made, Attorney Mohammed al-Roken told The Associated Press the public prosecutor’s office confirmed President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s pardon of the five activists as the country celebrates its national day.

 

Last April, Five activists were arrested in the United Arab Emirates for signing an online petition that demanded reforms in the wealthy Gulf country one of them was blogger Ahmed Mansoor. After the beginning of their trials last June, the five detainees have complained several times from the mistreatment they're getting in prison and from the campaigns bashing them and their families online, one of the reasons that made them take the decision to enter a hunger strike in protest of the violation of their rights and against the fact that they have no right to appeal to court's decisions.

They refused to attend the court hearings as they considered their trials unfair, however, this did not stop the Emirati court from making the decision in a 10 minutes session on the 27th of November to sentence each of Nasser bin Ghaith, a war veteran and a university lecturer at Sorbonne Abu Dhabi, Fahad Salim Dalk, Ahmed Abdul-Khaleq, a stateless of the UAE, and Hassan Ali al-Khamis to two years in jail while prominent blogger Ahmed Mansoor received a 3 years sentence. The five activists were charged for violating article 176 which prohibits insulting state officials, a charge that the detainees denied and instead assured their respect for the UAE figures and their good intentions to demand reforms for the good of their country.

The five activists completed 13 days of hunger strike when they their sentences came out, however, there are no reports yet of whether they are still on hunger strike or not. The court does not allow them to appeal and according to Human Rights Watch, the panel that made the decision was consisted of four foreign judges. The coalition of Alkarama (Dignity), Amnesty International, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Front Line Defenders, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and Index on Censorship, said that “the interim assessment of civil liberties lawyer Jennie Pasquarella raised disturbing questions about the politicization of the case against the men and called for all five to be released immediately and unconditionally and the charges dropped. The groups also called on the UAE authorities to open an independent judicial inquiry into the decision to prosecute the five men.”

When reading the report done by the seven human rights groups, one can see that the five detainees did not have a fair trial. Lawyer Jennie Pasquarella who attended their trials said that the court did not permit access for the detainees to all documents included in their trials. Pasquarella also said that the authorities have interfered in the process as some of the sessions were held secretly and only attended by security representatives. She also said that the court depended on the testimonies of four lawyers representing people who claim to have been victims of the statements made by the activists. The UAE5 have repeatedly refused the charges of inciting violence when writing their reform demands in the locally banned online forum UAE Hewar.

Two days before the court's decisions were made, Dr. Charlotte Peevers, a barrister based in the United Kingdom, on behalf of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) published a briefing paper on suppression of free expression that included threats and intimidation made against the UAE five activists known as “UAE 5”. When reading the 13 pages long paper, one can read several horrific insults and threats made against the activists, most of them supporting prosecuting the detainees to death for ‘betrayal of the country'. After hearing the court's decision, a relative of one of the detainees, blogger Khalifa Al-Nuaimi, was beaten and assaulted by a pro-government supporter who was quoted by Human Rights Watch witness saying: “Even if the detainees are released from jail, we will put them on trial ourselves.”

More than a week ago, a female twitter user from the UAE named Rawda Hamed posted on her account saying that she was summoned for interrogation. Hamed is known on twitter for her support of the UAE5 and she claimed to have entered hunger strike in solidarity with them. Hamed said in her last tweets that this is the fourth time she was called for interrogation and since the 16th of November, she hasn't tweeted any new posts. Unfortunately, no one knows any information about her or any contact information to reach her through.

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