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UAE seeks repatriation of citizen in Indonesia but fears media response

Arabi 21 has learnt that the United Arab Emirates is exerting intense pressure on Indonesia in order to secure the repatriation of a UAE citizen who is being secretly detained in Jakarta. It has become obvious, according to the information available, that if the man is handed over to the UAE he will face a 15 year jail sentence for a previous freedom of speech case in which the authorities accused him of affiliation to the Islah Charitable Society.

According to the details obtained by Arabi 21, the man’s name is Abd Al-Rahman Khalifah Bin Subaih Al-Suwaidi and he has been detained secretly in Indonesia since 21 October. The UAE has since then been seeking to repatriate him. However, both Abu Dhabi and Jakarta fear making the details of the story public or accessible to the media. Additionally, Indonesia fears facing domestic legal challenges if it hands Al-Suwaidi over to the UAE, which is known for violating human rights.

An informed source in Abu Dhabi told Arabi 21 that the UAE security service is apprehensive because Al-Suwaidi was detained on 21 October, whereas his last post on twitter was on the 29 October. Consequently, the UAE sought to verify whether he was indeed the same person whose fingerprints were sent to Indonesia. The authorities in Jakarta have confirmed that he is.

Al-Suwaidi is one of those who were sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison in the UAE in a highly controversial case that drew criticism from around the world, and condemnation from most independent human rights organisations. He was, it seems, arrested in Indonesia under the pretext of his “illegitimate stay” in the country. The police found a fake ID card on him in the name of “Sayyid Habib Al-Attas”. However, the Indonesian authorities fear that if they hand him over to the UAE they might face questions from local legal institutions and the Shura Council, especially because the Jakarta police have already referred Al-Suwaidi's file to the court, which may or may not order his deportation. Yet, even if a deportation order is issued, this does not necessarily mean that it would be possible to surrender him to the UAE authorities, which will prosecute him for expressing his opinion via social media.

The UAE source disclosed to Arabi 21 that the government in Abu Dhabi wants to repatriate Al-Suwaidi either before or after his trial. It wants to ensure that even if the Indonesian police insist on going ahead with a trial the UAE would eventually be able to take delivery of him when it is over. The UAE embassy in Jakarta has been mobilised to accomplish this mission.

It is worth noting that the UAE Supreme Court issued mass sentences last July against scores of citizens — including Shaikh Sultan Bin Kayid Al-Qasimi, a cousin of the ruler of Sharjah — in an unprecedented development in the Emirates’ history. The court sentenced eight of the defendants to 15 years each, 56 defendants to 10 years and 25 defendants to 7 years. It also ordered the seizure of properties and funds worth many millions of dollars and the closure of internet websites and accounts. The charge levelled at all these individuals was embracing the thought of the Muslim Brotherhood and belonging to the Islah Charitable Society, despite it having been licenced and active since the rule of UAE founder Shaikh Zayid Bin Sultan Al Nuhayyan.

Source: Arabi21, 23 November, 2015.

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