Emirati arrested after CNN appearance

An Emirati activist has been arrested after appearing on CNN to discuss the case of 5 people jailed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for making a comedy video about youth culture in Dubai.


Obaid Yousif al-Zaabi was arrested on the night of December 11th just hours after being interviewed on CNN where he discussed the case of those imprisoned for making “Ultimate Combat System: The Deadly Satwa Gs”.


It is the second time that al-Zaabi has been arrested, after he was detained on July 2nd 2013 for using his Twitter account to call for political reform, criticise human rights abuses, and urge Emiratis to “break the fear barrier” by standing up to authorities. He was bailed on August 4th due to his poor health, as he suffers from a severe form of arthritis.


On CNN al-Zaabi explained that he had shared a cell with Shezanne Cassim and his friends, stating that they looked unwell, whilst describing the reasons why he had been put in prison.


Obaid Yousif al-Zaabi took to Twitter to criticise authorities after his brother, Ahmed, claimed to have been tortured while in prison. Ahmed al-Zaabi is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence after being convicted in a trial of 94 political dissidents, a trial described by the International Commission of Jurists as “manifestly unfair” and that saw credible allegations of torture go un-investigated.


Obaid Yousif al-Zaabi is being held at an unknown location, believed to be a state security prison, which has raised concern that he is at risk of being tortured as other prisoners allege to have been subjected to mistreatment at such facilities.


It is a grave violation of the right to free expression that a man is arrested after appearing on a news channel to discuss the wrongful imprisonment of a fellow human being. The Emirates Centre for Human Rights believes that the arrest of Obaid Yousif al-Zaabi is directly related to his appearance on CNN.


Rori Donaghy, director, said:


“There is little doubt that Obaid al-Zaabi has been arrested for being brave enough to speak out against the human rights abuses being carried out by authorities in the UAE. It is hard to view the UAE as anything short of a police state when citizens disappear at the hands of state security simply for taking part in a television interview.”


The Emirates Centre for Human Rights calls on authorities in the UAE to immediately release Obaid Yousif al-Zaabi as he has committed no crime other than to highlight human rights abuses taking place in his country.


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