31 May 2018 – On 30 May 2018, Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent United Arab Emirates (UAE) human rights defender, was sentenced to ten years in prison and received a fine of Dh1 million ($272,000 USD) on charges of insulting the “status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols,” and using his social media account to spread “hatred and sectarianism,” as well as “false information.” Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) strongly condemns this ruling and calls upon the UAE to immediately release Ahmed Mansoor.

Ahmed Mansoor was originally arrested by security forces on 20 March 2017, and was subjected to a prolonged enforced disappearance. He is believed to have been in solitary confinement, and was denied access to a lawyer or defense counsel. Apart from two brief visits with his wife on 3 April and 17 September 2017, he has been denied any contact with his family. In both visits, he was brought from an undisclosed location to the State Security Prosecutor’s office in Abu Dhabi. Despite condemnation and demands from United Nations human rights experts, independent human rights organizations, and his family, the UAE has refused to reveal the whereabouts of Ahmed Mansoor. Prior to his arrest, Mansoor had used his twitter account to call for the release of fellow human rights defender Osama Al-Najjar, who has been kept in prison despite completing his three-year sentence in March 2017; as well as economist Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith, who was given a ten-year sentence also in relation to tweets.

The recent arrest, disappearance, and trial is only the latest in the UAE’s targeting of Ahmed Mansoor. He, along with four other activists, were arrested and sentenced to prison in 2011 for petitioning the government for legislative reforms, though the five received pardons the day after sentencing. Between 2011 and 2014, Mansoor’s computer was repeatedly infected with spyware by the UAE as a way to monitor his online activities. In 2016, it was discovered his cellphone was also infected with spyware that transformed his phone into a monitoring device. Although unable to prove the source of the spyware, a Canadian-based technology rights group, Citizen Lab, concluded there were few credible alternatives besides the UAE.

Despite constant harassment and detention, Ahmed Mansoor has continued to advocate for human rights in the UAE. Mansoor received the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders for his ongoing efforts to raise awareness of arbitrary detention, torture, and other systemic human rights violations in the UAE, at great risk to himself. Prior to his most recent arrest, Mansoor maintained a blog highlighting the situation of freedom of expression and prisoners of conscience in the UAE, as well as human rights violations he has been subjected to. In March 2017, he signed a joint letter calling on leaders of the Arab League to release the political prisoners of their respective countries. He has also used his Twitter account to note human rights violations, not just in the UAE, but across the region, including in Yemen and Egypt.

“The UAE government’s sentencing of Ahmed Mansoor for his work highlighting human rights violations is unacceptable, and demonstrates to the world that the UAE government has fully lived up to Ahmed Mansoor’s account of deep and systemic human rights abuses in the country,” said ADHRB Executive Director Husain Abdulla. “While many in the West have noted the UAE’s contribution to the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, few have realized the extent to which the UAE maintains a complex system of repression at home. Ahmed Mansoor’s case must not be ignored.”

ADHRB condemns in the strongest possible terms the arbitrary sentencing of Ahmed Mansoor for exercising his right to free expression. ADHRB calls on the UAE’s international partners and allies to press the UAE to immediately release Ahmed Mansoor, and to speak out on this case as a prisoner of conscience. We further urge the UAE to overturn Ahmed Mansoor’s sentence, and call for him to be immediately and unconditionally released.