Prisoner of conscience, Dr Nasser bin Ghaith: Sentenced 3 years ago
Three years ago today, the Federal Court of Appeals in Abu Dhabi sentenced Dr Nasser bin Ghaith, a lecturer at Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and a prominent human rights defender, to ten years in prison for charges solely relating to the peaceful expression of his conscientiously held beliefs.
At his trial, bin Ghaith revealed that he had been subject to torture during his eight-month long pre-trial detention in an undisclosed location. According to his testimony, he had been severely beaten by officers, deprived of sleep for up to a week and refused access to winter clothing. He was also denied access to his family, his lawyer and medical treatment. The judge reportedly turned off bin Ghaith’s microphone when he complained about his torture and ill-treatment during the trial in an attempt to silence him.
Dr bin Ghaith was accused of posting information “intended to damage the UAE” after he claimed that he was tortured during an earlier trial in 2011. Further charges were made in connection with critical comments he made on social media about the Egyption security forces’ mass killing of demonstrators at Raba’a Square in August 2013. The irony lies in the fact that an Egyptian judge was appointed to decide his case at the Abu Dhabi Appeals Court.
In the three years since his trial he has undertaken three separate hunger strikes in protest against his unjust sentence and the torture and ill-treatment he is subjected to in Abu Dhabi’s al-Razeen prison. His current physical and psychological conditions are consequently very poor. He has lost a significant amount of weight, much of his eyesight and in the past, has been too weak to stand up and walk unaided. He also suffers from high blood pressure. However, he continues to be denied access to appropriate medical care and has frequently been denied vital medicine, such as his blood pressure medication. He is highly vulnerable, therefore, amid the global Covid-19 outbreak.
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