Detention of Nasser Bin Ghaith
On 29 March 2017, human rights defender, economist and prominent academic Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith was sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Cybercrime Law and the 2014 Counter Terrorism Law for tweeting about human rights violations committed by Egyptian authorities and criticising the politicisation of the judiciary in UAE.
Nasser bin Ghaith is an Emirati human rights defender, economist and lecturer at the Abu Dhabi branch of the Paris-Sorbonne University. He is part of a group known as the “UAE5”, five activists who were imprisoned from April to November 2011 on charges of “publicly insulting” UAE officials.
On 29 March 2017, human rights defender, economist and prominent academic Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith was sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Cybercrime Law and the 2014 Counter Terrorism Law for tweeting about human rights violations committed by Egyptian authorities and criticising the politicisation of the judiciary in UAE. His conviction was also related to meetings he had during trips abroad with human rights defenders and political activists who have been labelled as members of terrorist organisations in UAE. Authorities held Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith in incommunicado detention for nine months after his arrest in August 2015. He was refused permission to see a lawyer and was not informed of the charges against him until the second session of his trial on 2 May 2016. Authorities have kept him in solitary confinement since his transfer to the maximum security block in Al-Sadr jail on 18 May 2016.
Human rights defender and professor of economics Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith remains in detention in an unknown location in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for his social media posts and human rights activities. He has been denied proper access to his lawyer or family since his arrest in August 2015, and reportedly subject to torture in custody. The continued detention and charges violate his human rights, including his right to free expression.
On 18 August 2015, security officers in civilian clothes arrested Dr. Bin Ghaith in Abu Dhabi and searched his home and confiscated personal items including electronic memory sticks. He was held incommunicado until finally being brought to the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi on 4 April 2016, when he told the court he had been tortured and beaten in detention and deprived of sleep for up to a week.
On 2 May 2016, a second hearing took place to examine charges against Dr. Bin Ghaith relating to his online postings. He stated that he is still being held in secret detention, a fact he had previously brought to the judge’s attention during his hearing on 4 April. The judge refused to listen to his complaints for a second time. Neither his family nor his lawyer knows where he is being detained, and his lawyer’s request to visit him has been denied repeatedly.
Dr. Bin Ghaith is one of a group of men known as the “UAE5” who were imprisoned in 2011 and tried for “publicly insulting” UAE officials. That trial also breached international human rights law and was widely criticised by human rights groups, including signatories of this letter.
Charges in the current case against Dr. Bin Ghaith include allegedly “committing a hostile act against a foreign state” in reference to statements he made on Twitter about the authorities and judicial system in Egypt. He was also charged with “posting false information in order to harm the reputation and stature of the state and one of its institutions” relating to a other statements he made on Twitter claiming that he had not been granted a fair trial as part of the “UAE5” case.
A further charge brought against Dr. Bin Ghaith of allegedly “posting false information about UAE leaders and their policies, offensively criticizing the construction of a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, and instigating the people of the UAE against their leaders and government” was related to a statement he made on Twitter intending to promote tolerance.
Dr. Bin Ghaith was also accused of allegedly “communicating and cooperating with members of the banned Al Islah organization” referring to visits and meetings with members of the “UAE94”, a group of human rights defenders, government critics, and advocates of reform tried jointly in 2013 and sentenced to long prison terms. He was also accused of allegedly “communicating and cooperating with” the banned Emirates Ummah Party, based on a presentation he was invited to make on the Islamic Economy by a member of the Ummah party, in his capacity as a professor of economics.