UAE Activists Jailed for Criticizing Government

Posted November 27th, 2011 at 4:35 pm (UTC-5)
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A court in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday sentenced five pro-democracy activists to prison for using the Internet to call for anti-government demonstrations.

The Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi convicted the five of publicly criticizing the Gulf state's leaders.

Prominent blogger Ahmed Mansour received the longest sentence — three years. He faced additional charges of inciting others to break the law, calling for an election boycott and promoting protests. The other activists received two-year jail terms.

The defendants are reported to be on a hunger strike and did not attend their sentencing.

Rights groups have criticized the UAE's prosecution of the activists as unfair and called for them to be released. The groups said the defendants were forbidden to review the evidence and charges against them.

The trial coincided with anti-government protests seen in other parts of the Middle East. The UAE has largely avoided such protests, and analysts believe that Sunday's court decision was designed to send a signal that the government will not tolerate any type of political dissent.

Earlier this year, the UAE government sent troops to neighboring Bahrain to help quell pro-democracy protests there. The demonstrations brought the island kingdom to a standstill.