UNITED ARAB EMIRATES.— On Sunday, Amnesty International, the Arabic Network or Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Front Line Defenders, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement denouncing the trial of five bloggers, calling for their release. The statement read, “UAE authorities should drop charges against five activists arrested after they called for democratic reforms.”
Ahmed Mansoor, Nasser bin Ghaith, Fahad Salim Dalk, Ahmed Abdul Khaleq and Hassan Ali al-Khamis are accused of “publicly insulting” top officials in the UAE. The blogging activists also face charges for inciting others, and calling for demonstrations and democratic reform in the UAE.
Ahmed Mansoor, a human rights advocate, and Nasser bin Ghaith, a noted economist and scholar, are reportedly charged with using uaehewer.net (Dialogue), an internet discussion forum, to “conspire against the safety and security of the state in association with foreign powers.”
Uaehewar.net, Created by Mansoor, was the only free UAE discussion forum. It was blocked by the country’s proxy server about a year ago with no explanation. Its members have been repeatedly harassed by the security services ever since.
Gamal Eid, director of ANHRI, claims it is not only the five bloggers being targeted for detainment. In 2007, two reporters on the UAE’s Khaleej Times newspaper were sentenced.
“They arrested the five to send a message to other online activists that it’s not allowed to talk about democracy [in the UAE]… We feel it’s a step back for freedom of speech in the UAE because it’s an accusation against bloggers and activists … because of what they wrote on [an online] forum about democracy. It’s not a crime to talk about reform and democracy,” Eid explained.
Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE, issued a decree in 2007 stating that journalists should not be jailed for their work.
This is the first occurrence in years in which individuals have been tried for speaking or writing critiques about the government.