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UAE jails prominent academic for 10 years over tweets

Bin Ghaith's last tweets are widely critical of governments across the Arab world [AFP]

Date of publication: 30 March, 2017

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A prominent academic was sentenced by a UAE court to 10 years in prison over a series of tweets idely critical of governments across the Arab world.

A United Arab Emirates court sentenced on Wednesday a prominent academic to 10 years in prison over a series of tweets criticising authorities, Amnesty International said. 

Nasser Bin Ghaith was convicted of promoting "false information in order to harm the reputation and stature of the state and one of its institutions" over a series of tweets in which he said he had been denied a fair trial in a previous case, the Beirut regional office of the rights group said. 

Bin Ghaith was arrested and forcibly disappeared in August 2015 over what Amnesty said was a series of tweets in which he said he was not given the right to a fair trial after his 2011 arrest.

His last tweets, dated August 2015, are widely critical of governments across the Arab world.

Amnesty International's Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for Research at the organisation's Beirut office, condemned Bin Ghaith's prison sentence.

"Today's sentencing of prominent economist, academic and human rights defender Dr Nasser bin Ghaith to 10 years in prison is yet another devastating blow for freedom of expression in the United Arab Emirates," she said on Wednesday.

"By imposing this ludicrous sentence in response to his peaceful tweets, the authorities have left no room for doubt: those who dare to speak their minds freely in the UAE today risk grave punishment."

Maalouf described Bin Gaith as a "prisoner of conscience" who was imprisoned for "the peaceful expression of his conscientiously held beliefs".

"He has already been forcibly disappeared, held in secret detention for months and subjected to beatings and deliberate sleep deprivation," he added.

"He is another victim of the UAE's repressive crackdown on dissent, which also saw the prominent human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor arrested last week."

Today's sentencing of prominent economist, academic and human rights defender Dr Nasser bin Ghaith to 10 years in prison is yet another devastating blow for freedom of expression in the United Arab Emirates.
- Lynn Maalouf

Bin Ghaith's sentencing comes less than two weeks after the arrest of Ahmed Mansoor, another member of a group of rights activists known as the UAE Five, who were arrested in April 2011 and released later that year by a presidential pardon.

The five were accused of insulting UAE leaders online, inciting anti-government protests and calling for the boycott of elections for the Federal National Council, an advisory body with no legislative power.

Mansoor, who had been stripped of his passport and barred from travel despite the presidential pardon, was re-arrested this month under the UAE's cybercrime law

He is accused of using social media platforms to "publish false information and rumours, and spread tendentious ideas that would sow sedition, sectarianism and hatred and harm national unity and social peace, as well as harming the state's reputation and inciting disobedience," according to the state-run Emirati news agency WAM.

Mansoor in 2015 won the Martin Ennals award, named after a former secretary general of the London-based Amnesty International.

The award, dubbed the Nobel Prize for human rights, is given to human rights defenders who show deep commitment to their cause despite huge personal risk.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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