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UAE Interview: The Latest Crackdown on Human Rights Activists

Professor Nasser bin Ghaith, prosecuted in 2011Since 16 July, at least 10 activists have been arrested in the United Arab Emirates, allegedly for planning to undermine the country's national security. According to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, most were seized from homes or businesses after the State prosecutor claimed on 15 July conspiracy that threatened UAE's national security had been discovered

The latest arrests follow a wave earlier in the year and the prosecution of five prominent dissidents --- Ahmed Mansoor, an engineer and blogger; Nasser bin Ghaith, an economist and university lecturer at Sorbonne Abu Dhabi; and online activists Fahad Salim Dalk, Ahmed Abdul-Khaleq, and Hassan Ali al-Khamis --- in 2011.

EA WorldView attempted to contact several Emirati activists and commentators. None were willing to speak on the record but one activist agreed to be interviewed under a pseudonym.

Josh Shahryar: Which emirates are the arrests concentrated in?

Abu Israar: The latest arrests were in Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Sharjah and Dubai. These arrests are done on a federal level and local Emirates have no hand in it. It's all done by the state security based in Abu Dhabi.

Editor's note: The Gulf Centre for Human Rights reports"Among those arrested are the President of the Emirates Centre for Studies and Information Dr. Mohamed Al-Mansoori, Director of the Centre for the memorisation of the Koran Abdulrahman Al-Hadidi, writer Rashid Al-Shamsi, administrative trainer Dr. Husain Al-Najjar, youth activist Omran Al-Radhwan, activist Khaled Al-Shibah Al-Naimi; prominent human rights lawyer Dr. Mohamed Al-Roken, his son Rashid and his brother in law, Abdulla Al-Hajeri."

JS: The reason for the arrests is being given as "national security"-related. What do you think is the real reason behind the arrests? If the arrests are being made because of the detained activists calling for reform, why now? What is the urgency?

AI: The real reason behind it is that most of the arrested are Islamists that have adopted Muslim Brothers' thoughts, though, they are not connected to MB organisationally. Islamists have been the only organised group of people despite the ongoing suppression and harassment from Government. They were empowered by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia, which raised the alarm with the Government, so it wanted to pre-emptively put down any possible loud voices calling for reform.

However, it's not only Islamists who are being targeted, but also anybody asking for real reform and holding views opposing the Government. The five arrested last year were not islamists, and among them was a human rights defender and one of the initiators of the 3rd of March petition that called for reform of the FNC (Federal National Council) to give it legislative and monitoring powers.

JS. So far, how many people have been arrested? Is there a specific number that you know?

>AI: Ten confirmed names and possibly more as the arrests are ongoing. I have two additional names that I have yet to confirm.

Editor's note: Yesterday, Dr.Essa Alsuwaidi, the former director of Abu Dhabi Educational Zone was also arrested. 

JS. Has the crackdown ended or are they still looking to arrest more human rights defenders? Do you think you are being specifically targeted for arrest as well? Are other human rights defenders you spoke to afraid of getting arrested? Is anyone hiding or leaving the country?

AI: The crackdown is still ongoing. More are expected to be arrested. I'm certainly targeted and could also be arrested anytime, but for me as a human rights defender, this is expected and I have no plan to leave or hide. Others are also fighting back in social media and showing no surrender.

JS. As for the people who have been arrested, do you know if they were able to speak to their lawyers or families? Have you heard if anyone was tortured?

AI: Regarding the latest arrests, their whereabouts are as yet unknown and they are [for all intents and purposes] incommunicado. Regarding previous arrests in the past, we knew where some of the arrested activists were being held, although most of them were kept incommunicado for some time. They are strongly suspected to be at the State Security jail. As for torture, there are serious reports about systematic torture [in detention in the UAE]. Two cases of torture were even talked about recently on TV. (Report 1, Report 2 [Arabic])

JS. Is this connected to the deportation of Ahmed Abdul Khaleq in any way?

AI: Ahamed Abdulkhaleq is not linked to Islamists at all. He is a Stateless (Bidoon) and has been defending the right of the Bidoon minority. That's why he was targeted.

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