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Sunday 30 October 2011

UAE Begins Trial of Five Democracy Activists

UAE Begins Trial of Five Democracy Activists

Published Friday, October 28, 2011

Five activists have been put on trial in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for expressing their opinions on the banned political website, UAE Hewar (Dialogue). They have been accused of incitement and insulting the symbols of the state under article 176 of the penal code. The case has even been upgraded to a threat to national security, even though the accused did not write anything of the sort on the blog. Since their arrest six months ago, they have been humiliated and tortured.

The trial of the accused five, arrested last April, began on June 14. They are: the engineer and writer Ahmed Mansour, Sorbonne-Abu Dhabi economics professor Nasser bin Ghaith, and internet activists Fahd Salim Dalk, Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, and Hassan Ali al-Khamis. The final verdict is expected on 27 November. The sentence will be final and not subject to appeal because the trial is part of state security procedures, and the federal supreme court is looking at the case in the preliminary stage.

Nasser bin Ghaith has written a letter from prison in which he declared his "boycott of the show trial and refusal to attend its sessions."In a phone conversation with al-Akhbar, the wife of bin Ghaith, Wadad al-Mahiri, insisted that her husband was innocent of all the accusations leveled against him. She said that bin Ghaith is a professor and a writer at al-Rai newspaper. He writes about economic matters that serve the country. He is also a legal advisor to the armed forces. He comes from a well-known Emirati family, most of whose members occupy prominent positions. She added, "He was surprised that such accusations would be leveled against him when all his qualities and deeds show how patriotic he is in his defense of the Emirates and its rulers." She points to the accusation of "insulting the crown prince of Abu Dhabi," and wonders, "How can that be? He harbors all respect and love for Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed."

Al-Mahiri believes that media incitement against the accused has turned the case into a national security issue. As for the evidence on which the case is built, she says, "Since the UAE Hewar site is blocked, the case is void. Where is the scene of the crime to convict the accused?" She adds that, "The stream on which the authorities claim the accused insulted the state had more than 42 thousand comments. Some of these comments were more extreme and harsher than what the accused wrote, so why were those five specifically chosen? None of them know each other."

Nasser bin Ghaith has written a letter from prison in which he declared his "boycott of the show trial and refusal to attend its sessions," because the trial was unjust. He spoke of the way he was arrested, describing it as "humiliating and degrading, carried out through a trap set up by the state security apparatus in cooperation and collusion with his place of work, which he has served for more than 23 years."

He also wrote about being tortured in prison. He says that after he was arrested, he was deprived of sleep for 48 hours and unable to use the bathroom. As soon as he arrived in Al Wathba prison, he was put in solitary confinement for 10 days. He wrote, "During this period I would urinate in one corner of the cell and perform tayammum (ablutions without water) and pray in another."

He, along with the other four accused, were then transferred to the general prison area where they were kept with "rapists, murderers, and fraudsters. It is well-known that even in police states, political prisoners or prisoners of conscience are not kept with ordinary prisoners." He adds that after that, they were targeted "by the prisoners at the instigation of a certain party."

He also spoke of breaches of the law committed by those responsible for carrying out justice. He said, "A few days after I was arrested and before I was put before the court, the attorney general made a statement in which he named me and the others, saying that it has been proven that we committed several crimes. This is a serious breach of our rights and of legal and moral principles." He added, "the court staff were changed three times and its sessions were made secret for no given reason, despite the fact that the trial should be public." There is also a media campaign against the accused, questioning their patriotism and professionalism, even making death threats.

According to four human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, the messages posted by the accused on the UAE Hewar site are "no more than criticisms of government policies and political leaders." Ahmed Mansour faces additional charges, including inciting others to break the law and calling for a boycott of the elections and for demonstrations. Mansour had declared his support of a petition with more than 130 signatures calling for direct general elections to select the Federal National Council, a government advisory body.


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