Crackdown in UAE intensifies with arrests of leading lawyers

The UAE authorities must immediately and unconditionally release two prominent human rights lawyers arrested in recent days, Amnesty International said.

Dr Mohamed ‘Abdullah al-Roken, a long-time Amnesty member and a well-known human rights defender and lawyer, was arrested at 1.30am yesterday as he drove to a Dubai police station to report the disappearance five hours earlier of his son Rashid Mohamed al-Roken and son-in-law ‘Abdullah al-Hajeri.

He was one of the defence lawyers in last year’s prominent case of five political activists - known as the “UAE 5” - who were arrested, tried and imprisoned for defaming UAE government officials.

He is among 13 men - including fellow human rights defender, lawyer and former head of the UAE Jurists’ Association, Dr Mohamed al-Mansoori - who have been arrested in the last two days by state security officers (Amn al-Dawla). The Amn al-Dawla arrested most of the men either at their homes or at their places of work, confiscating computers and personal documents in the process.

Besides al-Mansoori and al-Roken and his relatives, the remaining detainees include the director of the Centre for the Memorisation of the Qur’an ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Hadidi, and activists Rashid al-Shamsi, Hussain al-Najjar, Omran al-Radhwan, Khaled al-Shaiba, Dr Ibrahim al-Yassi, Mohamed al-Hoosani, ‘Isa al-Sari and Khalifa al-Nu’aimi. Some of those held are associated with the Reform and Social Guidance Association (al-Islah).

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Ann Harrison said:

“We believe Mohammad al-Roken and Mohammad al-Mansoori to be prisoners of conscience, held solely on account of their defence work as lawyers and other peaceful human rights activities.

“This is not the first time they have been persecuted for their legitimate human rights work. They must be released immediately and unconditionally.

“The UAE authorities must halt this intensified crackdown on human rights defenders and other activists across the Emirates. We’re calling for an end to the UAE’s restrictions on free speech and peaceful protest.”

The arrests were carried out after the Abu Dhabi Public Prosecutor on 15 July announced an investigation into a group of people for allegedly plotting “crimes against state security”, “opposing the UAE constitution and ruling system”, as well as having ties to “foreign organisations and agendas”.
In a separate development, on Monday, UAE authorities forced a member of the “UAE 5”, the 35-year-old blogger and activist Ahmed

Abdul Khaleq, into exile in Thailand. In his writings he has defended the rights of the UAE’s stateless Bidun minority, of which he is a member. Amnesty considered him a prisoner of conscience during his detention. Mohamed al-Roken had been advocating for his client not to be expelled in the days before his own arrest.

Yesterday, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed his concern at the accelerating crackdown on human rights defenders in the UAE. He referred to harassment, denial of travel, termination of work contracts, arrests, denaturalisation and expulsion from the country as methods being used by the UAE authorities to repress activists in the country.

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