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Palestinian journalist detained at a secret prison in the UAE

A Palestinian journalist is being held incommunicado at an unknown location by state security officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Mahmoud Abdulhadi, 55, was arrested by plain-clothed state security officers at his home in Dubai on October 28th at around 8pm. Police officers seized his phone, laptop and other electronic devices before taking him to an unknown location.


Mahmoud Abdulhadi has worked as a journalist for over 25 years and lived in Dubai since 2007 during which time he has served as an editor at Al Jazeera as well as being the news director of the Ashorooq television channel. He currently runs MENA Smart, a media-training centre in Dubai, and has taken part in development programs with UNESCO.

It is unclear why he is being detained, as state security officers have failed to provide a reason for his arrest and refused to give information to his wife on at least two occasions. Aside from a solitary 5-minute phone call to his wife on November 17th, in which he sounded stressed and appeared to read from a pre-prepared statement, he has had no contact with the outside world.

Prior to his arrest Abdulhadi published an article on Al Jazeera, discussing the current political turmoil in Egypt. His family told the Emirates Centre for Human Rights that he has no political affiliations, that he is a respected independent journalist and that he should not be viewed as an activist for any particular political ideology.

Mahmoud Abdulhadi is not the first journalist to be arrested in the UAE this year, with Egyptian Anas Fouda detained for a month in similar circumstances in July.

Although it is not known where Mahmoud Abdulhadi is being held, a former prison guard recently revealed the location of a state security facility in Abu Dhabi and confirmed that torture does take place there.

It is of increasing concern that authorities in the UAE are arresting journalists and detaining them at unknown locations without charge for prolonged periods. Actions such as these contradict an image of being open and liberal, as projected to the wider world through events such as the upcoming Dubai Film Festival.

Rori Donaghy, director at the Emirates Centre for Human Rights, said:

“It has become a familiar story to hear of people disappearing at the hands of state security in the UAE, who now regularly arrest people and hold them at unknown locations without charge for lengthy periods.
Detaining journalists without charge is hardly consistent with a country that won the right to host Expo 2020 under a banner of promoting communication and creativity across the world.”

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