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Two Emirati online activists sentenced to jail under recent cybercrimes law

The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounces the verdict issued by an Emirati court to imprison two human rights advocates and online activists as a result of using the Internet to peacefully express their opinions and to expose violations committed by the Emirati authorities against detainees.

During a hearing held on 25 December 2013, the Abu Dhabi Federal Court sentenced human rights advocate Mohamed Salem Al-Zumer to three years in prison and a fine of 500 Emirati Dirhams (US$160) over accusations of insulting the president and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

The accusations are based on tweets that were posted on Al-Zumer's personal Twitter account, in which he mentioned that the state had paid a private company to set up an army of mercenaries in order to repress freedoms. The rights advocate is also accused of damaging the Emirati state security entity's reputation after saying that detainees are tortured in prisons. The court did, however, acquit him of a charge against him accusing him of being a member of the opposition group, the Reform and Social Guidance Association (al-Islah).

Al-Zumer was arrested by security forces almost a year earlier on 5 December 2012. Officers confiscated his personal items; his cellular phone and his iPad. Information about him being tortured in his detention period has been circulated.

In another case, a court in Abu Dhabi had issued a verdict against human rights advocate Abdul Rahman Omar Bajubair, who lives outside the United Arab Emirates, demanding that he be taken into custody for five years on charges of managing a site called Motadaminoon which it claimed had offended the honour of the Federal Court's judges and overtly breached the court's prestige. The site had posted details of the prominent trial of the 94 detainees.

"These judgments issued against activists in light of their use of the Internet to voice their opinions peacefully prove that the Emirati authorities enacted the cybercrimes law to gag the opposition and to repress online bloggers and activists," said ANHRI. "Authorities arbitrarily use this notorious law against activists and bloggers to convict them and lock them behind bars."

When including these last two verdicts, ANHRI stipulates that the number of activists convicted under the cybercrimes law has now reached five; including a U.S. citizen who resides in the U.A.E.

ANHRI calls on the Emirati authorities to release all prisoners of conscience and to drop all accusations against them. It also calls for rescinding those articles in the cybercrimes law that repress freedoms.

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