|There are no official opposition groups in the UAE and political parties are banned [GALLO/GETTY]|
Authorities in the United Arab Emirates have detained two more activists advocating democratic reforms in the oil-rich nation where most political activity is banned, a lawyer has said.
The pair include Nasser bin Ghaith, one of the country’s most outspoken academics, who is a financial analyst and an economics professor at the Abu Dhabi branch of Paris’ Sorbonne university.
He was detained on Sunday in Dubai, according to Mohammed al-Mansouri, the lawyer and a fellow activist.
Bin Gaith has frequently criticised the Gulf region’s rulers for refusing to consider all but the most limited of political reforms and for failing to provide a legal framework for the rapid economic development of the past decade.
The other activist, Fahad Salem al-Shehhy, was detained late Saturday in Ajman, another of the federation’s emirates north of Dubai, al-Mansouri said.
Al-Shehhy has been participating in an online forum calling for free elections and other democratic reforms in the UAE, an alliance of seven emirates run by ruling families.
The forum had been led by Ahmed Mansour, a blogger and human rights activist, who himself was arrested on Friday in Dubai after he signed a petition in favour of an elected parliament.
Police and government officials have not responded to calls for comment, and representatives of Sorbonne Abu Dhabi could not immediately be reached.
Political activity is severely restricted in the UAE, there are no official opposition groups and political parties are banned.
The federation has not seen the kind of pro-reform unrest spreading elsewhere around the Middle East and no protests have taken place since the uprisings against autocratic rulers started in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year.
There has, however, been an increase in online discussions about the need for political reform.
Last month, 130 people signed a petition demanding constitutional and parliamentary changes in the UAE, free elections for all citizens and more of a share of the country’s oil wealth.
A similar petition was also sent a few days ago.
Activists have complained of increased harassment and monitoring of blogs and social media in the past year.
Mansour told the Associated Press news agency on Thursday that he had been getting threats for signing the petitions calling for an elected parliament.