UAE: torture fears for prominent economist arrested this week and held in secret detention

Recent screenshot of Nasser bin Gaith's Twitter account © Amnesty International
Family of former ‘UAE 5’ detainee Dr Nasser bin Ghaith have no information on his whereabouts
 
Fears are mounting that prominent economist Dr Nasser bin Ghaith could be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment in secret detention since his arrest by the United Arab Emirates authorities two days ago.
 
The academic, who has previously been jailed for online comments about political reform and voting rights, may have been detained for tweeting about Egypt’s bloody anti-Muslim Brotherhood crackdown.  
 
According to information gathered by Amnesty International, at 2pm on Tuesday, plainclothed officials from the UAE’s State Security body arrested Dr bin Ghaith at his workplace in Abu Dhabi and took him to his home in Dubai. They searched both premises and confiscated a number of items. During the search, Dr bin Ghaith questioned the officials when they allegedly planted memory sticks that were not his among the items “collected” at his home. According to witnesses, he said that he would “boycott” any interrogation or trial that was held. 
 
Dr bin Ghaith was taken to an unknown location. State Security officers did not inform him or his family of the reasons for his arrest, and they did not explain where they were going to detain him. The academic’s family have no information about his whereabouts. He has several medical conditions, including high blood pressure, and requires regular medication.
 
There are unconfirmed reports that he may have been detained for tweeting about Egypt’s Rabaa al-‘Adaweya massacre - the violent dispersal of two sit-ins by Egyptian security forces in August 2013 in which hundreds of people were killed. 
 
Amnesty International’s Acting Middle East and North Africa Director Said Boumedouha said: 
 
“We fear that Dr Nasser bin Ghaith is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of the country’s State Security body. 
 
“It is a gross abuse of the legal process to hold him incommunicado in a secret place of detention.
 
“Dr Nasser bin Ghaith’s whereabouts must be immediately disclosed and he must be released if he is being held for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.”
 

Past jailing as part of ‘UAE 5’ crackdown

Dr bin Ghaith was previously arrested in April 2011 and charged alongside four other activists with “publicly insulting” the UAE’s president, vice-president and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi in comments posted on an online discussion forum. He had signed a petition with a group of leading Emirati citizens calling for political reform, including the right to vote in parliamentary elections. 
 
After more than seven months in detention and following an unfair trial, the five were convicted by the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court on 27 November 2011, with Dr bin Ghaith receiving a two-year jail sentence. They were not allowed to lodge an appeal, in contravention of international fair trial standards. The men became known as the “UAE 5” and, after international pressure, all five were released under a presidential pardon on 28 November 2011, though it remains unclear whether their convictions were ever expunged from the official record. 
 

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