Prominent Emirati activist Ahmed Mansoor was handed a 10-year sentence in jail in addition to AED 1 million ($272,000) fine on charges of criticizing the Emirati government on social media, according to the Abu Dhabi-based news website, the National.
Mansoor’s charges varied from using social media accounts to publish “false information” and “spread hatred and sectarianism”, insulting the “status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols” in addition to seeking to damage the UAE’s relationship with its neighbouring. Mansoor was also cleared of conspiring with a terrorist organisation.
The winner of the Laureate of Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders was arrested on March 20, 2017 and denied access to a lawyer. Although, he was jailed for three years earlier in 2011 for "insulting officials" along with other activists. After his jail ended, he was stripped of his passport in addition to banning him from leaving the country.
Mansoor’s verdict was received by a wide-condemnation from human rights organizations, as it highlights the UAE government's failure to tackle any criticism toward reform.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) also released a statement, in which they urged Emirati authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison following an unfair trial in Abu Dhabi”.
The topic also attracted the social media users’ attention who depicted their condemnation and support for Mansoor on hashtags like: “احمد منصور” or “Ahmed Mansoor”.
Translation: “Accusing Ahmed Mansoor of insulting the UAE is really funny as I don’t think that Ahmed Mansoor or anyone else can offend the UAE as much done by the stupid policies of the current leaders that offended its people and history, from messing up with money, stirring crisis with neighbouring countries and suppressing people’s aspirations to freedom.. What is wrong with and you how do you judge?
Sarah Leah Whitson, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch in the Middle East and North Africa Division also expressed condemnation and support with her friend who is a HRW advisory committee member.
After 2011 uprisings in the Middle East, the UAE was believed to follow more repressive policies than before, labeling it with one of the highest rates of political prisoners per capita.
In fact, freedoms in all Arab countries were the focus of attention following the 2011 uprising with an increase in registered abuses carried out against activists and bloggers. Meanwhile, the focus has been concentrated on Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the past few weeks where tens of human rights advocates and bloggers are being arrested.