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UAE: Human rights defender Mr Abdullah Al-Hadidi receives 10-month sentence for reporting on "UAE 94" case trial
On 8 April 2013, the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance sentenced twitter activist and human rights defender Mr Abdullah Al-Hadidi to a ten-month jail term on charges of publishing on Twitter a “dishonest account” of a public hearing at the Federal Supreme Court on case No. 17 of 2013 (aka UAE94). Originally, Abdullah Al-Hadidi faced two charges. However, he was acquitted on the second charge, which was the use of force against police personnel from the General Command of Abu Dhabi Police.
Abdullah Al-Hadidi has played an important role in documenting what happens inside the courtroom, to which he has access unlike international observers and the media. The human rights defender also played a key role in coordination between families in order to compile the defence evidence of videos and documents.
Abdullah Al-Hadidi was originally arrested in Sharjah in the very early hours of Friday 22 March 2013 at his apartment, where he lives with his wife and three children. The arrest was undertaken by plain clothes security forces who failed to present an official arrest warrant. The human rights defender was then taken to Sharjah police station where his family tried to have him released on bail, but the request was denied by the police.
Later that day, Abdullah Al-Hadidi was transferred to Abu Dhabi. His family were told that he was transferred to Al-Khaledyya police station because one of the court security guards had filed a complaint against him. The family later found out that this was the same security guard who had grabbed the human rights defender and forced him out of the courtroom during the last hearing of the UAE94 detainees on 19 March 2013.
On 28 March 2013 Abdullah Al-Hadidi was charged under Article 265 of the Penal Code for publishing details of a public trial session “without probity and in bad faith.” The court invoked Article 46 of the 2012 federal decree on cyber-crime, which incriminates the use of the Internet or information technology. The judge at the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance denied bail to the human rights defender.
In its meeting of 2 April 2013, the Court of First Instance allowed the defence to submit its documents before sentencing. In the next session held on 4 April 2013, the defence witnesses, all of whom are families of detainees of UAE94 case, testified that the human rights defender did not attack the policeman who removed him from the courtroom. The witnesses were not questioned about the issue of reporting on Twitter.
Front Line Defenders believes that the prison sentence against Abdullah Al-Hadidi is solely motivated by his peaceful and legitimate human rights work, and views this act as part of an ongoing campaign of judicial harassment against human rights defenders in the UAE.