A prominent Emirati human rights activist was yesterday handed a ten-year prison sentence for using his social media accounts to allegedly spread "false information" and cause "hatred and sectarianism".
On the charges of insulting the "status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols," the court in Abu Dhabi also slammed Ahmed Mansoor, 48, with a fine of one million Dirhams ($272,000). Mansoor was cleared of conspiring with a "terrorist organisation".
He has been detained for over a year without charge since being arrested on 20 March last year, when he had shown support for fellow activist Osama Al-Najjar, questioning why the authorities did not release him after the completion of his three-year sentence for tweeting about human rights abuses in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Mansoor had previously been arrested in 2011 along with four others, after calling for political and economic reforms, before being pardoned by the authorities. He won the prestigious Martin Ennals award for defending human rights in the UAE in 2015, being described as "one of the few voices within the United Arab Emirates who provides a credible independent assessment of human rights developments in the country."
According to the human rights group, International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE), it was revealed by former Emirati government official Jassem Al-Shamsi in April this year that Mansoor underwent physical torture during his time in prison, as well as being forbidden to see or call his family.
According to Human Rights Watch: "UAE authorities have launched a sustained assault on freedom of expression and association since 2011. UAE residents who have spoken about human rights issues are at serious risk of arbitrary detention, imprisonment, and torture. Many are serving long prison terms or have left the country under pressure."
The Emirates also bans representatives of international human rights organisations from visiting.