The jailing of a prominent human rights activist in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for posts he made on Facebook and Twitter is a devastating blow to freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said today.
Ahmed Mansoor was this week sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 1,000,000 Emirati Dirham (approximately USD $270,000) for posts he made on social media.
“Ahmed Mansoor is one of the few openly critical voices in the UAE, and his persecution is another nail in the coffin for human rights activism in the country,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director.
“The decision to lock up Ahmed Mansoor for the next 10 years for simply sharing his opinion on social media is what causes the real damage to the UAE’s reputation and so-called ‘social harmony’, not Ahmed Mansoor’s peaceful activism.
“Ahmed is a prisoner of conscience who has been targeted, tried and sentenced for using Facebook and Twitter to share his thoughts. He should never have been charged in the first place and now he must be released immediately.”
Mansoor was reported to have been convicted of “publish[ing] false information, rumours and lies about the UAE” which “would damage the UAE's social harmony and unity.”
The prosecution characterized his so-called crime as “publish[ing] false information to damage [the] UAE’s reputation abroad” and “portray[ing] the UAE as a lawless land.” Mansoor had also been charged with “cooperating with a terrorist organisation operating outside the country” but was acquitted on this charge.
Mansoor was sentenced at the State Security Chamber of the Federal Appeal Court in Abu Dhabi. He can appeal his sentence to the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court.
Mansoor’s trial began in mid-March this year, and continued at a hearing on 11 April. A third hearing may have taken place on 9 May but there has been no confirmation of this. He was sentenced on 29 May, but the news was only revealed yesterday.
Amnesty International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Ahmed Mansoor, which includes the quashing of his sentence. Pending his release, Ahmed Mansoor must be granted immediate and regular access to a lawyer, his family and any health care he may require.
Ahmed Mansoor has been detained since 20 March 2017 and held for most of this time in solitary confinement. His place of detention has never been officially confirmed and he has been granted only two visits from his family; when his family visited him, they and Ahmed were both brought to the prosecutor’s office.
This is not Ahmed’s first conviction for expressing his opinion. In 2011, the Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court sentenced him to three years in prison for “insulting UAE leaders by delivering speeches and public lectures” and “provid[ing] false reports and information about the UAE that would harm the policies of the state”, in addition to “contacting international rights and political organisations working abroad”. He did not serve that sentence, however, as he was pardoned by the UAE President.