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Over 40 Warwick University academics demand release of former student jailed in the UAE

More than 40 legal academics from Warwick University have written to the UAE government to demand the release of former student Mohammed al-Roken, a prisoner of conscience currently serving a ten-year sentence for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.

Mohammed al-Roken is one of Amnesty International’s Write for Rights cases, an annual campaign where Amnesty asks its supporters around the world to write letters of solidarity to prisoners of conscience, as well as letters to the authorities demanding their release.

Al-Roken, 52, was convicted in July last year along with 93 other government critics and campaigners for political reform after a deeply flawed trial in the Gulf state. The mass trial of the “UAE 94” has been condemned by the UN, Amnesty, and other international human rights organisations.

The academics’ letter explains how many of the defendants were subjected to enforced disappearance and held in solitary confinement in secret locations for up to one year before the trial. Al-Roken was held in secret detention for eight months before the start of the trial. Much of the ‘evidence’ against the group consisted of confessions obtained under torture.

The letter says:

“Dr Mohammed al-Roken is not a criminal and we urge you [the UAE government] to exhibit compassion by releasing him immediately and unconditionally, reinstating his licence to practice law, thereby allowing him to resume his work as a lawyer, and permitting him to also continue his work as a lecturer of law.

“As legal academics, we believe that Dr Mohammed al-Roken’s case represents an important test of whether the United Arab Emirates upholds values of academic freedom, human rights, and adherence to the rule of law.”

Prior to his arrest, al-Roken had been a target of harassment because of his work as a human rights lawyer, his criticism of the UAE’s human rights record, and his advocacy of democratic reforms. He had been arrested and detained several times, placed for some time on a travel ban, forced to stop lecturing at UAE University, writing in newspapers, and giving interviews to local media, and subjected to surveillance.

Amnesty International UK’s Individuals at Risk campaign manager Karen Middleton said:

“We are delighted these academics from Warwick University are calling for Mohammed’s release. He is a prisoner of conscience imprisoned solely for his human rights activism and he must be freed immediately. He and his family will be very pleased to hear this message of solidarity from his alma mater. We know it makes a huge difference to prisoners of conscience and those at risk of human rights abuses to know that people are thinking of them.”

The full text of the letter can be found here:

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