Nine detained in UAE Islamist crackdown: activists

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 01, 2012 11:48 AM
Nine detained in UAE Islamist crackdown: activists

By Rania El Gamal

DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates has detained nine Islamists in the past two days, local activists said on Wednesday, and human rights groups have urged condemnation of the Gulf Arab country's "draconian" treatment of the opposition.

The arrests brought to at least 35 the number of activists, most of them Islamists, detained since July 15 when the UAE said it was investigating a foreign-linked group planning "crimes against the security of the state".

Activists say around 50 have been arrested since last year. Many of them are UAE nationals, but an Omani citizen and a stateless resident also have been detained.

Interior Ministry officials were not available for comment.

The UAE, a federation of seven emirates and a major oil exporter, allows no organized political opposition. The U.S. ally has been spared the political unrest that has toppled four Arab autocrats since last year, thanks in part to its cradle-to-grave welfare system.

It has moved swiftly against any sign of dissent, stripping the citizenship of Islamists deemed a security threat and issuing jail sentences to activists who called for more power for a partly elected advisory council.

Relatives and activists said most of those arrested have links to the local al-Islah (Reform) Islamist group, which advocates closer adherence to Islamic principles and has been the target of a crackdown in the UAE.

"DRACONIAN RESPONSE"

The arrests are the latest in what international rights groups and activists have described as a crackdown on political opposition in general, and on Islamists in particular.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch, along with other rights groups, urged the U.S. and British governments to speak up about what it described as a "draconian response to the mildest calls for modest democratic reforms".

"After all their fine words over the past year about standing up for democracy and human rights in the Arab world, the U.S. and the UK have completely lost their voices when it comes to the UAE," Joe Stork, HRW's deputy Middle East director, said in a statement.

Amnesty International had said on Tuesday that the UAE must disclose the whereabouts of those arrested and expressed concern about possible torture or ill treatment, which the group has previously documented in the UAE.

It described the arrests as "deeply disturbing".

The men detained over the past few months include founding members of Islah, prominent lawyers and a ruling family member who is under house arrest in Ras al-Khaimah.

Many are well-known figures from the more religiously conservative northern emirates such as Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah, which are also less affluent than the oil-rich capital Abu Dhabi and trade hub Dubai, activists said.

(Additional reporting by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Michael Roddy)