A United Arab Emirates (UAE) appeals court has upheld a 10-year prison sentence against prominent pro-democracy activist Ahmed Mansoor for criticising the government on social media, Amnesty International reported.
Mansoor, an electrical engineer and poet, was arrested in March 2017 and sentenced in May by Abu Dhabi’s Federal Appeals Court for “defaming the UAE through social media channels”.
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Mansoor was among five activists convicted and later pardoned for insulting the UAE’s rulers in 2011.
He was arrested again in March 2017 at his home in Ajman on charges of publishing false information and rumours, and of promoting a sectarian and hate-incited agenda.
Mansoor was also charged with using social media to “harm national unity and social harmony and damage the country’s reputation”.
Local media reported that the father of four, Mansoor, was handed a fine of one million dirhams ($270,000) for insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols, including its leader.
Several international rights groups, including the United Nations human rights bodies, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the European Union Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights have condemned the sentencing of Mansoor earlier this year.
‘No space for freedom’
Responding to Monday’s decision by the court to uphold Mansoor’s sentence, Amnesty’s Middle East Research director, Lynn Maalouf said that the decision proves “there is no space for freedom [of] expression in the United Arab Emirates”.
His only ‘crime’ was “to express his peaceful opinion on social media, and it is outrageous that he is being punished with such [a] heavy prison sentence” she said in a statement.
“The authorities must ensure his conviction and sentence are quashed and release him immediately and unconditionally,” the statement read.
Speaking to Al Jazeera in October, Joe Odell, the campaigns manager for the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) said that since the cybercrime law in 2012 came into force, there has yet to be a precedent where a rights activity has successfully appealed their sentence.
“It is unlikely that the process will be a fair and independent one,” he said.
“His continued detention is in clear breach of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to which the UAE is a signatory,” Odell added.
In 2015, Mansoor won the Martin Ennals award for human rights defenders for his work in the UAE.
He’s been described by the awarding body as “one of the few voices within the UAE who provide a credible independent assessment of human rights developments in the country.”
An expert told the UN Human rights commision last year that Mansoor’s arrest and detention is a “direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.”
Human Rights Watch in March 2018 said Mansoor is believed to have been held in solitary confinement.