Rights advocates call on UAE to release Ahmed Mansoor

Political and human rights advocates call for the release of Ahmed Mansoor, who has spent 100 days in UAE detention.

    Mansoor is being held in solitary confinement, says Amnesty International [File: Nikhil Monteiro/Reuters]
    Mansoor is being held in solitary confinement, says Amnesty International [File: Nikhil Monteiro/Reuters]

    A coalition of major political and human rights groups and advocates on Tuesday released a joint letter calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the prominent Emirati human rights activist, Ahmed Mansoor.

    The initiative marks 100 days of Mansoor's detention by authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

    Mansoor is being held in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer or calls to his family, according to the letter demanding his release.

    He was arrested in March on charges of spreading sectarianism and hatred on social media, according to WAM, the UAE's state news agency.

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    "These charges relate solely to his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and therefore we consider him a prisoner of conscience," read the letter.

    "The continuing detention of such a high-profile and internationally respected human rights campaigner is extremely damaging to the UAE government’s reputation abroad," it added.

    The document was signed by 18 notable figures and eight organisations, including US intellectual Noam Chomsky, and rights organisations Index on Censorship and PEN International.

    100 days in detention

    Mansoor was arrested by UAE authorities on March 20 after 12 plain-clothes security officials stormed his family home in Abu Dhabi and took him to an unknown location.

    Mansoor has since been transferred to al-Sadr prison, the letter said. On  April 3, he was taken from his place of detention to a prosecutor's office in Abu Dhabi for one short supervised family visit, according to Amnesty.

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    WAM quoted the public prosecutor as saying in March that Mansoor, an electrical engineer and poet, had used social media "to publish false information and rumors as well as promoting (a) sectarian and hate-incited agenda". 

    His posts "harm national unity and social harmony and damage the country's reputation", added the prosecutor's statement.

    The UAE is an absolute monarchy which tolerates little public criticism of its ruling system and has previously prosecuted Mansoor and other pro-democracy activists for what it termed insulting the country's leaders.

    Mansoor was among five activists convicted of those charges in 2011 amid the "Arab Spring" protests calling for reform in other Arab states. He was subsequently released.

    Mansoor is a member of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and has a seat on the advisory committee at Human Rights Watch.

    "In recent years, following a huge crackdown on activists and government critics in the UAE, Ahmed Mansoor was left as the last remaining Emirati human rights defender speaking out about human rights violations in the country," said Amnesty International in a March statement.

    "As a result of his peaceful human rights work, he has faced repeated intimidation, harassment, physical assault, and death threats from the UAE authorities or their supporters."

    "Since at least 2011, the authorities had placed him under physical and electronic surveillance. His computer and email accounts have been hacked," added Amnesty.

    The full list of signatories:

    Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR)
    COJEP International
    Detained in Dubai
    Index on Censorship
    International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE)
    International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR)
    Martin Ennals Awards Foundation
    PEN International
    Tom Brake, MP for Carshalton and Wallington
    Andrew Byles, Garden Court North Chambers
    Rt Hon Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland
    Noam Chomsky, Professor
    Ron Deibert, Director of the Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
    Jonathan Emmett, Author
    Andy Fitzpatrick, Barrister, Garden Court North Chambers, Manchester
    Cllr David Haigh, Solicitor, UAE torture survivor, Former MD of Leeds United Football Club
    Chris Haughton, Author and illustrator
    Miles Kenyon, Communications Officer, Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
    Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion
    Michael Mansfield, QC
    Bill Marczak, Senior Researcher, Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
    Fadi Al Qadi, Human Rights, Civil Society, Advocacy and Media Expert
    Chris Riddell, Author, Illustrator and Political Cartoonist at the Observer
    Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith
    Dr David Wearing, School of Oriental and African Studies
    Pete Weatherby, QC Garden Court North Chambers, Manchester

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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