The ICFUAE Condemns the Sentence of Nasser bin Ghait on the Anniversary of his Arrest
On the anniversary of Dr Nasser bin Ghaith’s arrest, we condemn the unjust judgement made in his trial and demand that UAE authorities be held responsible for his arbitrary detention and for holding an unfair trial.
In March 2017, prominent academic and human rights defender Nasser bin Ghait was sentenced to ten years in prison for the expression of his conscientiously held beliefs.
On 18 August 2015, bin Ghaith was forcibly disappeared from his work place and held in a secret location for eight months, being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. Although he raised the complaint of being tortured by beatings and sleep-deprivation in front of the judge during his first two hearings in April and May 2016, no investigations were made and the allegations dismissed. Until these hearings, bin Ghaith was not even informed of the charges brought against him and he had no access to a lawyer. In June 2016, he was then transferred to al-Sadr prison in Abu Dhabi.
The charges brought against bin Ghaith relate to his peaceful activities on social media, especially comments he made on Twitter criticising the Egyptian government as well as his unfair trial related to his first arrest in 2011. In what was known as the “UAE 5” case, bin Ghait as well as four other Emiratis were tried on grounds of comments they made in an online discussion forum. All five were designated as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, being unlawfully prosecuted for acting on their right to freedom of expression, and thereby violating international human rights law. Ignoring the right to freedom of speech, bin Ghaith’s tweets were misrepresented as providing “false information” and as “committing a hostile act against a foreign state” under the cybercrime law and UAE penal code. According to Amnesty International, who reviewed bin Ghaith’s tweets, none of the comments he made contained hatred or violence, underlining the arbitrariness of his arrest. Since its inception in 2012, the cybercrime law has been abused by the UAE government to arrest anyone posting dissenting opinions online, including on social media. In many cases, as with bin Ghaith, charges are made not only based on of the cybercrime law, but also in conjunction with other laws like the anti-terrorism law. Having been invited to speak at a conference by the Emirates Ummah Party, bin Ghaith held a speech on Islamic economy in November 2013. In 2014, however, the party was declared as a “terrorist organisation” by the government, resulting in bin Ghaith being charged under the anti-terrorism law although he had no formal affiliation with the party. Both the cybercrime and the anti-terrorism law are so vaguely defined that even just expressing one’s opinion can be interpreted as a crime or even as an act of terrorism, restricting the right to freedom of expression drastically.
We demand the UAE authorities to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Dr Nasser bin Ghaith, as well as all other prisoners of conscience;
- Allow bin Ghaith access to medical care;
- Allow bin Ghaith access to a lawyer;
- Ensure that the cybercrime and anti-terrorism laws meet international human rights standards on freedom of expression and association.