Emirati activist sentenced to 2 years in prison for tweets

An Emirati activist has been sent to prison for two years and fined 500,000 Dirhams (£84,500) for tweeting about a political trial in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).


Waleed al-Shehhi, an employee at the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology, was convicted on Monday, November 18th, of violating Articles 28 and 29 of the Cybercrimes Decree by a court in Abu Dhabi.


He was arrested on May 11th by state security officers in Ajman and taken to a secret prison for 10 days before being transferred to al-Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi.


Articles 28 and 29 of the Cybercrimes Decree ban the use of information technology for carrying out acts that ‘endanger state security’ and ‘harm the reputation of the state’ respectively.


Waleed al-Shehhi used his Twitter account to question the handling of the ‘UAE 94’ trial, calling for the release of prisoners he believed had been detained solely for their support of democratic reforms in the country.


The UAE 94 trial has been described as ‘manifestly unfair’ by the International Commission of Jurists and the case saw credible allegations of torture go un-investigated by authorities.


Al-Shehhi becomes the second person convicted of violating the Cybercrimes Decree, with Abdulla al-Hadidi recently freed after serving a 10-month sentence for his use of Twitter.


Another trial involving the use of social media is due to conclude shortly. Mohamed al-Zumer, Khalifa al-Nuaimi and Abdulrahman Bajubair are all charged with posting online videos that insult the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.


Al-Zumer is 19-years-old and has repeatedly accused authorities of torturing him in prison. Al-Nuaimi is serving a 10-year prison sentence after being convicted in the UAE 94 trial and Bajubair is currently residing outside the UAE.


Rori Donaghy, director, said:


“Waleed al-Shehhi has been sent to prison for tweets that asked why authorities had failed to investigate torture against political prisoners and in no way compromised national security.


Authorities are using the veil of national security to target peaceful political activists and it is having a chilling effect on free speech in the country.”


The conviction of Waleed al-Shehhi further emphasizes that authorities are pursuing a crackdown against any citizen who questions the actions of the state.


Two years in prison and a fine of 500,000 Dirhams for tweets about torture and unfair trials demonstrate that authorities will not tolerate even the mildest forms of dissent.


As world leaders and multinational corporations attend the Dubai Air Show authorities are locking up citizens who ask for torture to be investigated and trials to be fair. It is utterly shameful that the lure of big business silences any criticism of a regime that abuses its own citizens with impunity.


The Emirates Centre for Human Rights calls on authorities to end their crackdown against peaceful political activists and urges the international community to place respect for human rights at the heart of all engagement with authorities in the UAE.


For further information please contact Rori Donaghy on +44(0)7850062105 or at campaigns@echr.org.uk