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Jordanian journalist jailed by UAE for three years over Facebook post freed after completing sentence

Jordanian journalist, Tayseer al-Najjar, finally arrived home in Amman [TNA]

Date of publication: 12 February, 2019

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Tayseer al-Najjar has been freed after spending three years in prison over Facebook comments deemed insulting to the UAE.
Jordanian journalist Tayseer al-Najjar arrived in Amman on Tuesday after being freed by the United Arab Emirates. He had spent three years in prison over Facebook comments deemed insulting to the UAE under the Gulf nation's draconian cybercrime laws.

Najjar was also fined 500,000 dirhams ($136,130) for "insulting symbols of the state" on social media under Article 29 of the UAE's cybercrime law when his case reached court in March 2017.

Najjar's family was unable to pay the fine, despite seeking assistance from charities and non-governmental organisations. The Jordanian government did not provide any financial assistance.

"Jailing a journalist on spurious charges does far more to 'insult' the UAE and its symbols than anything Tayseer al-Najjar ever wrote," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Najjar had been detained in December 2015 and charged with violating the UAE's cybercrime law over Facebook comments in which he criticised the UAE and other countries over their inaction during Israel's 2014 war on Gaza.

Article 29 of the UAE’s cybercrime law criminalises the online publication of information "with intent to make sarcasm or damage the reputation, prestige or stature of the State or... any of its symbols". Those convicted can be sentenced to upwards of fifteen years in prison.

Read also: Detained in Dubai: UAE no longer safe for tourists

Najjar completed his sentence on the December 13 after three years behind bars. Those who cannot pay the release fine must serve an additional six months under UAE law.  It is unclear how he was granted an "early" release.

The Jordanian was convicted for Facebook comments he made before he had even moved to the UAE in 2015 to work as a reporter for al-Dar newspaper.

The ruling was also based on phone conversations with his wife in which the journalist criticised the UAE. Authorities did not mention how they obtained al-Najjar’s call records.

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