ICFUAE demand the release of Nasser bin Ghaith on the anniversary of his detention
In commemoration of the anniversary of Dr Nasser bin Ghaith’s arrest, campaigners from the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) organized a public action in London demanding the immediate and unconditional release of the prominent Emirati academic as well as other prisoners of conscience in the UAE. Activists gathered today outside Trafalgar Square in order to raise public awareness of human rights violations in the UAE.
On 18 August 2015, bin Ghaith was forcefully disappeared by Emirati authorities and kept in secret detention for a period of eight months without charge or access to a lawyer. During this period, bin Ghaith claims he was subjected to beatings and deliberate sleep deprivations by security officials.
Nearly two years later, on 29 March of this year, Emirati courts sentenced the distinguished Emirati academic to ten years in prison. He was sentenced on charges relating to comments made on social media that were critical of the UAE authorities and their foreign policy, and also for having alleged links to the Ummah Party, which were designated a terrorist organisation by the UAE in 2014. Nasser bin Ghait denied these charges, as the allegation relates to a speech he delivered on Islamic economy at a conference organised by the party in 2013.
Bin Ghaith was charged under the UAE's Penal Code; the 2012 Cybercrime Law, and the 2015 Counter-Terrorism legislation. This case demonstrates that both the cybercrime and counter-terrorism law in the UAE 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.
In April of this year, bin Ghaith announced in a letter smuggled out of his cell that he was beginning an open-ended hunger strike, demanding his immediate and unconditional release. It is currently unknown as to whether he has continued with this, however there have been reports that his health was seriously deteriorating. On numerous occasions since his detention, bin Ghaith has complained that he was denied access to adequate medical treatment.
This is not an isolated case. Since 2011, the UAE authorities have arbitrarily detained hundreds of peaceful activists and government critics calling for human rights and democratic reforms. Cybercrime laws and anti-terrorism legislation have been used as a pretext by authorities to clamp down heavily freedom of speech in the UAE. In 2016 alone, around three hundred people were detained in the UAE merely for expressing opinions on social media sites.
Therefore, the ICFUAE demand the Emirati authorities allow bin Ghaith access to medical care and legal advice, while reviewing his sentence. The authorities must ensure that the cybercrime and anti-terrorism laws meet international human rights standards on freedom of expression and association, and call on the UAE to immediately and unconditionally release Dr Nasser bin Ghaith as well as other prisoners of conscience detained within their borders.
1. Read more on Nasser bin Ghaith's case: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/03/uae-prominent-academic-jailed-for-10-years-over-tweets-in-outrageous-blow-to-freedom-of-expression/