UAE Activists Face Trials for an Online Petition

"Justice for UAE detainees" as published by blogger Khalifa AlNuaimi

An online petition is the only common factor between five detained activists in the United Arab Emirates. Ahmed Mansour, Nasser Bin Ghaith, Fahad Al-Sihhi, Hassan Ali Al Khamis, and Ahmed Abdulhaleq Ahmed are the names. Mansour is a well known blogger and an outspoken secular activist from Dubai, while Bin Ghaith comes from a wealthy family and has served as a consultant for the army beside being a war veteran, a decorated pilot, a columnist, and a lecturer. The other three names are not very well-known for readers outside the UAE as the topic of their trials became a taboo inside the wealthy-family-ran Gulf state. Ahmed Abdulhaleq Ahmed, according to AFP, is a stateless of the UAE, a community that is denied all the rights for documents, and public access to education, medication, and employment; another taboo that the UAE does not like any light shed at, especially by foreign media.

Bin Ghaith was shocked to have been detained. According to his brother, as interviewed by AP, Bin Ghaith was detained for an article he published in a week before his arrest last April. A day before his trial which he refused to show up to beginning of October, Bin Ghaith wrote a letter talking about his case and mentioning that his arrest had to do with opinions he posted in online forums. However, media and local talks link the five detainees in one circle which is the online petition they signed with more than a 100 Emiratis demanding reforms and more freedoms including giving power to the parliament and reconstructing its hierarchy and voting system.

The same blog that published Bin Ghaith's letter, Emirati blogger Khalifa Al-Nuaimi wrote the trial's details that he attended. He said the five activists did not show up yet the trial started with a testimony from the representative of the information ministry answering questions about some online forum. The representative said those who wrote ‘insulting’ comments in the forum cannot be identified, that the web hosting company is American, that the forum's manager cannot be identified, and that the website has been blocked in the UAE since 2010. Al-Nuaimi writes what happened in the trial without specifying which forum they are referring to, who wrote in this forum other than Mansour, and what specifically were the written comments.

In general, the UAE seems to have succeeded in blocking a lot of information and details from the world about this specific trial which is moderated by a court specialized in anti-regime and terrorism cases. When making a decision, this specific court does not allow any appeal. Al-Nuaimi in the same post talked about the games the authorities play through the state security police by grouping people in front of the court to insult the activists and call them ‘traitors’, while Bin Ghaith in his letter talked about the mistreatment that he faced while getting arrested and in the last six months he spent in jail. He expressed his shock over the justice system of his country that he never realized its ugly truth until his arrest, and according to different sources, he was denied treatment for a recent skin disease he caught during his time in prison.


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