Press Release: Freedom of Speech Still Under Threat as Online Activist is Denied Release
Online activist Osama Al-Najjar who was due to be released after serving three quarters of his sentence, has been denied release. The UAE Cyber Crimes Law has been misused to target activists for their use of social media to criticise the government or call for freedom of speech and political reform.
Osama Al-Najjar was arrested on 17 March 2014 after tweeting about the ill-treatment of his father, Hossain Al-Najjar, one of the UAE94 activists detained in 2011. He was initially held in solitary confinement and denied contact with his family and lawyer. He reported being tortured by the authorities during questioning. Osama was brought to court only on 23 September 2014, for an unfair trial which lasted 10 minutes. He was charged with offending the state, instigating hatred and spreading lies about his father, who is currently serving a jail sentence of 11 years. Osama was sentenced with 3 years in jail and a fine of 500,000 Emirati Dirham (approximately US$136,100) with no right to appeal.
Since 2011, the UAE has launched a crackdown on human rights defenders and political activists who voice their dissent over the lack of freedom of expression and use of arbitrary punishment by the UAE government. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Amnesty International (AI) have called for the immediate release of Osama Al-Najjar and all other prisoners of conscience.
1. The reports of Amnesty International and The Gulf Centre for Human Rights can be read here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2014/11/uae-man-tortured-and-jailed-after-defending-imprisoned-father-twitter/ and http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1327