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UAE Five

The UAE Five are five Emirati activists who were imprisoned from April to November 2011 on charges of insulting President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates. The five arrested activists were Nasser bin Ghaith, an Emirati economist and lecturer at the Abu Dhabi branch of the Paris-Sorbonne University; Ahmed Mansoor, who signed a pro-democracy petition; and online activists Fahad Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali al-Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq.[1]

Arrests

Inspired by the growing momentum of the pro-democracy Arab Spring, Emirati activists began to be more vocal in their opposition to the UAE government in early 2011. Bin Ghaith, an "outspoken economics professor", was arrested on 11 April for his call for "democratic and economic reforms".[2] Mansoor, an engineer, blogger, and member of Human Rights Watch, was arrested the same day for signing a petition in favor of an elected parliament,[2] and Dalk, al-Khamis, and Khaleq were detained for their online activities before the end of the month.[1] Following their arrests, UAE government-controlled media reported that the five were "religious extremists" and Iranian foreign agents.[3]

Their arrests received immediate international attention, with continuing coverrage in the [3] Human Rights Watch condemned the trial as "an attack on free expression",[8] and Front Line Defenders, the Index on Censorship, and the Arabic Network For Human Rights Information also called for the men's release.[8] Because of his academic background, bin Ghaith's trial was also protested by the Committee for Human Rights of the US National Academy of Sciences,[9] Scholars at Risk,[10] and the Committee of Concerned Scientists.[11]

Trial, conviction, and pardon

Their trial began on 14 June in Abu Dhabi.[6] A Human Rights Watch spokesman criticized the "public relations campaign" of the UAE government against the defendants, stating that dozens of pro-government demonstrators were attending the trial to protest the five prisoners.[6] The government charged the prisoners with violating article 176 of the UAE Penal Code, which criminalizes insults to the nation's leadership;[1] the prosecutor's case focused on their posts to an online pro-democracy forum, which had by then been shut down and replaced with a travel service.[3] On 18 July, the UAE Five pled not guilty.[4] Amnesty International later condemned their trial as "fundamentally unfair" and "marred with irregularities", stating that the defendants had been "denied any meaningful opportunity to challenge the charges and the evidence against them".[12] Human Rights Watch also described the trial as "grossly unfair".[13]

On 3 October, the UAE Five refused to attend a session of their trial, demanding that the hearings be opened to the public and that they be allowed to question witnesses.[14] On 13 November, with the trial still in progress, the five began a hunger strike to protest their continued detention; Human Rights Watch reported that the five were in poor health.[8] On 27 November, the panel of four judges sentenced bin Ghaith, Dalk, al-Khamis, and Khaleq to two years' imprisonment, and Mansoor to three years.[13] Following the announcement of the verdict, a pro-government protester reportedly assaulted a relative of one of the defendants despite the heavy security presence.[8]

The following day, however, the five received a presidential pardon and were released.[15] The office of President Khalifa declined to comment to reporters on the reason for the pardon.[13] Bin Ghaith told reporters that he was glad to be free, but that he felt that the trial had been "a sad moment for our homeland, a beginning of a police state that has tarnished the image of the UAE forever".[13]

References

  1. ^ a b c d "UAE: End Trial of Activists Charged with Insulting Officials".  
  2. ^ a b c "UAE arrests democracy activists".  
  3. ^ a b c "The UAE Five: Amnesty urgent action".  
  4. ^ a b "UAE activists plead not guilty to insulting rulers".  
  5. ^ "Developments Across North Africa and the Middle East".  
  6. ^ a b c Angela Giuffrida (29 June 2011). "Tensions Beneath the Stability in the U.A.E.". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 January 2012. 
  7. ^ Severin Carrell (7 August 2011). "Comedians and writers lead Amnesty campaign to free jailed UAE activists".  
  8. ^ a b c d "UAE: Prison Sentence for Activists an Attack on Free Expression".  
  9. ^ "Case Information". Committee for Human Rights of the US National Academy of Sciences. 1 December 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012. 
  10. ^ Brendan O'Malley (24 April 2011). "DUBAI: Scholar's detention erodes UAE's reputation". Scholars at Risk. Retrieved 22 January 2012. 
  11. ^ "CCS Welcomes Release of Professor Nasser Bin Ghaith of the UAE".  
  12. ^ UAE Five' Risk Heavy Sentence for Insult"'". Amnesty International. 11 November 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c d "UAE pardons jailed activists". Al Jazeera. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012. 
  14. ^ "UAE activists boycott 'unfair' trial".  
  15. ^ "'"Five jailed UAE activists 'receive presidential pardon. BBC News. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012. 
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