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Paul McLoughlin

Emirati activist arrested for 'insulting Egypt' on Twitter

Abu Dhabi has clamped down on opposition in the UAE [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 August, 2015

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Nasser bin Ghaith, a leading economist and one of the 'UAE 5' group of activists was arrested Tuesday for 'insulting' Egypt.

Emirati democracy activist Nasser bin Ghaith has been arrested by police in the UAE, accused of insulting Egypt.

Ghaith is an academic who teaches economics at Abu Dhabi's Sorbonne University, and was one of the five pro-democracy campaigners who was detained by
Emirati authorities in 2011 -  known by supporters as the UAE 5.

Yesterday the academic was taken away by police for allegedly posting a tweet criticising Egypt six months ago. It is not clear what the message said.

Ghaith's office in Abu Dhabi was searched by police at 2pm UAE time on Tuesday, 18 August, and some items were confiscated.

His home in Dubai were searched by police before Ghaith was taken away at 8pm.

It is said that Ghaith refused to cooperate with the police investigation, alleging unfair practices. There is no further information about his whereabouts.

UAE 5

Ahmed Mansoor, one of the other UAE 5 activists, believes that he has been taken to a "secret security facility".  

Mansoor believes that the tweet about Egypt is being used as a pretext to detain Ghaith for his vocal criticism of Arab leaders who are supported by the UAE and highlighting the clampdown on pro-democracy movements in the region.

"When the UAE authorities find a tweet which can be criminalised, they keep it with them in case they need to refer to it in future. The laws are wide open from the terrorism law, to the cyber crime law, to the latest discrimination law," Mansoor said.

"All of these case encompass all types of peaceful expression, and can be criminalised," he said.

The UAE have passed a number of cybercrime laws in recent years, which human rights groups say are being used to clamp down on free expression.

This includes punishing people who make offensive comments or swear on Whatssap with fines as high as $68,000 and jail terms.

In July, Abu Dhabi passed a new anti-discrimination law, which can also land offenders in jail. Mansoor suspects that this - or the anti-terror or cybercrime laws - could have been used against Ghaith.

Ghaith and Mansoor were arrested along with three other Emirati democracy activists in April 2011. They were accused of insulting a number of leading Emirati figures.

The five prisoners were released on 28 November 2011 during a presidential pardon, one day after their trial.

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