Emirati academic gets 10 years in prison over tweets

AP News
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Posted: Mar 30, 2017 3:32 AM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An Emirati academic held since August 2015 over his tweets has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, activists and state-run media reported, just days after another activist was detained by authorities in the Western ally nation.

Nasser bin Ghaith has been held after tweeting criticism of Egypt, an ally of the UAE, which is a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula.

Ghaith was convicted of "communicating with secret organizations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood," as well as making "offensive" online posts, according to a report Wednesday by the state-run WAM news agency. The Brotherhood is considered a terrorist group by the UAE, which hosts U.S. forces fighting the Islamic State group.

Amnesty International criticized the sentence, calling it "another devastating blow for freedom of expression in the United Arab Emirates."

"Dr Nasser bin Ghaith is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for the peaceful expression of his conscientiously held beliefs," Lynn Maalouf, an Amnesty official based in Beirut, said in a statement.

The UAE, while liberal in many regards compared to its Middle Eastern neighbors, has strict laws governing expression.

Another activist, Ahmed Mansoor, was recently arrested by Emirati authorities for his online posts. Mansoor won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award last year for bringing attention to arbitrary arrests and torture concerns in the UAE.

United Nations experts on Tuesday called on the UAE to immediately release Mansoor, calling his "secret detention" a "direct attack" on the work of rights defenders. In a statement carried by WAM on Wednesday, the UAE's Foreign Ministry criticized the U.N. statement as "totally incorrect," saying Mansoor was held at Abu Dhabi's central prison and had "the freedom to hire a lawyer" and receive family visits.