European Union legislators have urged the United Arab Emirates to free several prominent human rights activists and other “peaceful dissidents” imprisoned in the country.
In a strongly worded resolution passed on Thursday, the EU Parliament condemned alleged rights violations in the wealthy Gulf state and demanded the “immediate” and unconditional release of Ahmed Mansoor, Mohammed al-Roken and Nasser bin Ghaith.
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The resolution was approved with a sizeable majority, winning the support of 383 legislators. Just 47 legislators opposed the text, while 259 abstained from the vote.
Mansoor, 52, was arrested in 2017 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of publishing false information and “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE”, including in posts on social media platforms.
Global rights group Amnesty International has designated the activist, who has allegedly been held in solitary confinement since his arrest, as a “prisoner of conscience”.
Al-Roken, a human rights lawyer, is also considered a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty.
The 58-year-old is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence after being found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government in a July 2013 mass trial that saw scores of other defendants convicted.
Bin Ghaith, an economist and academic, was also imprisoned for 10 years in March 2017 over a series of social media posts deemed to be critical of UAE authorities.
Call for Expo boycott
The EU Parliament resolution called for “all other human rights defenders, political activists and peaceful dissidents” detained in the country to be freed.
It urged EU member states to boycott the Expo 2020 world fair in Dubai, “in order to signal their disapproval of the human rights violations in the UAE”, recommending they “withdraw their sponsorship”.
Expo 2020 is scheduled to start on October 1, after a year-long delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the health crisis, officials have stuck to a pre-pandemic target of 25 million total visitors to pass through the gates of the Expo, more than twice the size of the UAE’s roughly 10 million population.