Human Rights Blogger Arrested in the United Arab Emirates
Read excerpts from Ahmed Mansoor’s blog in the days and weeks leading up to his arrest.
On April 8, 2011, Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent human rights blogger in the United Arab Emirates, was arrested at his home. The previous month, he and 133 academics, former government officials, journalists, and activists, signed a petition demanding constitutional reform and free elections. Under the current constitution, ruling families head the seven federations within the UAE. The petition demanded direct elections and political parties, both of which the UAE prohibits.
After the petition was posted online, Mansoor became the target of an online smear campaign against him. He is still in prison, awaiting a verdict for his arrest. He and four other activists are refusing to appear in court, boycotting their own trials.
The following are excerpts from Mansoor’s blog in the days and weeks leading up to his arrest. Content is edited for clarity.
March 17, 2011
Following trends in Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Bahrain, some Emirati Internet thugs have been attacking…the signatories of a recent petition calling for the reform of the Federal National Council (Parliament).
Internet thugs use verbal abuses and insults, threaten physical harm, and recently distributed an email that described activists as traitors, and depicted them hanging in gallows.
Some activists believe these thugs belong to security agencies. The UAE quickly blocks such Internet sites . No state action has been taken against these thugs so far, even though many UAE laws criminalize such acts.
In the Arab world, the UAE is one of the countries with the most Internet censorship. Opposition and dissent sites are usually blocked quickly. Reports indicate that State Security targets and harasses Internet activists.
April 7, 2011
I would like to inform you that I am facing an unprecedented campaign against me. Yesterday I received six death threats, using real names and phone numbers. Some used their real photos in their Facebook profile. They were all UAE citizens, belonging to the Al Mazrouei tribe. The individuals posted the campaigns and insults against me in blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. This campaign came after we posted the petition calling for reform in the FNC, and after we appeared on television talking about the demands and revolutions in the region.
Additionally, Etisalat, the telecom provider with the largest share in my company, decided to transfer me to work in Pakistan….
There is no doubt in my mind that the transfer was an order from the State Security to find a way to get rid of me. If I accept, I go to Pakistan. If I don’t, I will be fired. I expect they will soon send me a letter of termination, as I refused to go to Pakistan.
April 8, 2011
A few minutes ago, at 3:50 am, my building’s security guard came to my apartment. I could immediately tell that something was wrong. Reluctantly, I opened the door. He said, “There are three policemen waiting for you in the main entrance.” I asked if he was sure that they were policemen. He said, “Yes, they told me to tell you to go downstairs and see them.” [The guard tells Mansoor that the policemen wanted something related to the car.]
I closed the door and immediately called the Dubai police, and told them what the guard told me. [Mansoor wanted to be sure that the men were real police, and were not connected to the death threats he had been receiving.]
The police called me back, and told me that my car was under suspect. I told him that they could take the car in the morning…there is nothing valuable there, they can take it.
[Showing up in the middle of the night] is a well-known State Security method. Because they do not have an arrest warrant, they trick you…and take you. I am ready to go, but they should either do it the right way or by force…
I am not sure if they took the car or not. If they take it, they can put whatever they like inside and make a case against me. [Mansoor was initially charged with possession of alcohol, in violation of Sharia law. Mansoor’s lawyer says there was no evidence that he was carrying any. He was later charged with threatening state security, disturbing police order, and insulting the vice president and Abu Dhabi’s crown prince.] I am declaring here that my car is clean of unlawful material. It has a Swiss army knife I put in there today after receiving 6 death threats, and some papers of no great importance.
Ahmed Mansoor’s verdict will be issued on November 27, a judge announced on October 23. Mansoor, along with five other activists arrested in April, will remain in detention. One of Mansoor’s defense lawyers, Abdulhamid Al-Kumaiti, told the Agence France-Presse that he was optimistic about the outcome. No concrete evidence was produced to support the charges; however the court has either denied or failed to rule on motions to release Mansoor and the other defendants on bail, even though they have not been charged on violent offenses, and authorities say they do not pose a flight risk.
On November 28, the president of the United Arab Emirates pardoned Ahmed Mansoor and four other pro-democracy activists who refused to appear in court, a day after their conviction.
On November 27 the Federal Supreme Court sentenced Mansoor to three years’ imprisonment for insulting the leaders of the UAE. Each of the four co-accused were convicted under the same law, and received two-year prison sentences. There was no chance of appeal.
UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan granted them amnesty in celebration of the country’s National Day. After his release, Mansoor’s online forum remains blocked. He told the AP, “They [the authorities] did everything to make me a criminal, but I consider fighting for human rights and free speech as part of my patriotic duty.” He and the other activists remain dedicated to campaigning for more freedom in the UAE.