On 17 October, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government postponed the trial of academic Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith for the seventh consecutive time. Bin Ghaith’s trial will resume on 14 November 2016 when the defense team will present before the State Security Chamber of the Supreme Court. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and alleged torture of Dr. Bin Ghaith during his lengthy trial process for charges violating his rights to free speech.
Emirati officials arrested Dr. Bin Ghaith on 18 August 2015 at his work place and forcibly disappeared him without charge or trial. He reappeared eight months later on 4 April 2016 before the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi, where he testified how he had been held in a secret location and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. Dr. Bin Ghaith faces five separate charges, largely stemming from comments he made on social media. These include allegedly “committing a hostile act against a foreign state” in reference to a series of tweets criticizing Egypt’s government and “posting false information” relating to statements he made about a previous trial.
“The UAE’s pattern of enforced disappearances, torture, and unfair trials for civil society activists and academics like Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith exposes the country’s brutal repression of dissent,” said ADHRB Executive Director Husain Abdulla. “The repeated postponement of Dr. Bin Ghaith’s trial is just one of the many ways in which UAE uses the obstruction of justice to further punish peaceful criticism.”
The UAE government utilizes legislation to criminalize peaceful expressions of opinions as a serious offense, including broad provisions under the Penal Code, the 2012 cybercrime law, and the 2015 counter-terror law. In 2011, Dr. Bin Ghaith was one of the “UAE Five” arrested for comments posted on an online discussion forum. After over seven months in detention following an unfair trial, the Emirati government convicted the men of “publicly insulting” UAE officials. Another member of the UAE Five, Ahmed Mansoor, has also been subject to government harassment when researchers connected spyware on Mansoor’s cell phone to UAE government surveillance. In 2013, the Federal Supreme Court tried 94 individuals, accusing them of attempting to overthrow the government. According the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), the convictions in the “UAE 94” case were based on charges over legitimate acts of free expression and assembly.
The United States considers the UAE an important ally in the fight against extremism and terror. Yet, the US government remains relatively silent in condemning its partner’s suppression of basic rights, such as freedom of peaceful expression. Such silence only enables the repressive policies which generate instability. The United States should publicly condemn Dr. Bin Ghaith’s torture and arbitrary detention and demand the UAE government ensure fair and transparent court proceedings going forward in Dr. Bin Ghaith’s trial.