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Detained activists face charges for signing petition demanding reforms

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 26 April 2011 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reports that on 25 April 2011, the UAE authorities issued a resolution to imprison five human rights and internet activists pending investigation on charges of "incitement to break the law, endangering the country's security, insulting the president and insulting the governor of Dubai ".

On 19 March, the activists had signed a petition demanding political reforms and fair elections in the UAE, and for more legislative powers to be granted to the Federal National Council (UAE parliament). Subsequently, security personnel raided the activists' houses and arbitrarily arrested Ahmed Mansour, Ali Abdullah alShehhi, Nasser Bin Gheith, Fahd Salem and Hassan Khammis.

In a separate development, the authorities had earlier issued an unjust decision to dissolve the board of the Association of Jurists for human rights defenders in the UAE. The government appointed a new board for the association, in retaliation for the organisation's signing of the same petition demanding political reforms.

Activist and well known blogger Ahmed Mansour, who has been harassed and received several death threats, was arrested after his home was raided and searched on 8 April. A raid on the home of activist Fahd Salem was carried out on the evening of the next day, 9 April. The writer, economic analyst, and Internet activist Nasser Bin Gheith was arrested on 10 April. Finally, human rights activist and former army officer Abdullah alShehhi was arrested on 15 April.

Security escorted the activists to an unknown location without declaring the reasons for their detention or providing any other information until the issuance of the resolution to put them in custody pending investigations.

ANHRI and other human rights organizations previously expressed concern about the fact that the activists are being brought to trial on fabricated charges to settle political disputes and to punish them for using their legitimate right to expression, and to intimidate activists and advocates of reform in the UAE and prevent them from taking similar steps.

ANHRI expresses dissatisfaction at the narrowing of the space for free expression in the UAE; the investigation of the activists and the dissolution of the jurists association board comes on the heels of the widely distributed petition, urging the UAE authorities to take steps to support democracy in the country in a peaceful and civilized manner.

ANHRI urges the UAE authorities to stop the trial of the activists immediately, and attend to their legitimate demands, which they declared in their petition. Rather than punishing the activists for expressing their views, the government should be considering how to address the demands in the petition and investigating who was responsible for abducting the activists from their homes and arbitrarily imprisoning them for more than two weeks.
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