Call for the immediate release of human rights defender Osama-Al-Najjar as his sentence expires
Human rights defender and on-line activist Osama Al-Najjar was scheduled for release on 17 March 2017, having served a full three-year prison sentence as a result of the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression, however he remains in unlawful detention.
On 17 March 2014, Osama Al-Najjar was arrested, by ten state security officers during a raid on his home. He was kept in an undisclosed location for four days without access to his family or a lawyer.
He was not brought before the courts until 23 September 2014 when he was charged with belonging to Al-Islah, offending and instigating hatred against the State, and spreading lies about his father, Hossain Al-Najjar, who is one of the UAE94 human rights activists, currently serving an 11-year prison sentence. The charges related to postings he made on Twitter where he expressed concern at the alleged ill-treatment of his father in prison and called for him to be freed.
On 25 November 2014, he was sentenced by the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi to three years in prison and a fine of 500 Emirati Dirham (approx. $136,100), following a grossly unfair trial and a hearing that lasted less than ten minutes, without the possibility of an appeal. He has been subjected to torture and ill-treatment while in detention, prompting fears for his health and well-being and calls from the international human rights community for his immediate release.
Under UAE Punitive Installations Law (Article 44) he was entitled to be released in August 2016, having served three quarters of his sentence, however, the State Security Apparatus arbitrarily decided not to release him. In January 2017, he was reportedly transferred from Al Wathba Prison to al-Razeen Prison, where he remains in detention.
The 17 March 2017, marked the full completion of the term of his sentence. His family, friends and the human rights community eagerly awaited his long-anticipated release on that date. However, the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme decided to extend his detention at the request of the Public Prosecution on the pretext that he is a threat and must be imprisoned in the Counseling Center, another area within the prison. The term of this arbitrary and unlawful detention has not been specified and constitutes a flagrant breach of Osama Al-Najjer’s basic human rights.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) believes that the arrest and on-going detention of Osama Al-Najjer, are solely related to the exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression. The GCHR calls on authorities in the UAE to immediately and unconditionally release him and all those detained as a result of their human rights activities.
Support the case of Osama Al-Najjer by:
1. Joining our Twitter campaign on the case of Osama Al-Najjar at #Free_Osama;
2. Writing immediately in English, Arabic or your own language urging the UAE authorities to:
a) Ensure the prompt release of Osama Al-Najjar;
b) Guarantee the physical and psychological safety, well-being and integrity of all prisoners at Al-Razeen Prison and take measures to ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and have access to lawyers, their families and to any necessary medical attention;
c) Release all other human rights defenders detained solely as a result of their peaceful and legitimate human rights work;
d) Guarantee in all circumstances that on-line activists and all human rights defenders in the UAE are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.