Five activists in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who were detained for seven months and charged with 'publicly insulting' the country's rulers have been released. The UAE President commuted their sentences, of two or three years each, on 28 November 2011. Read the full update
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In August, over 600 gig-goers at our Edinburgh Festival show, Stand Up for Freedom, took action by text to call for the five activists' release. We handed these names - along with a further 3,000 from paper and online petitions - into the UAE embassy earlier this year.
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What next for the UAE5?
While we're pleased that they have been released, the activists may be left with criminal records which will make it hard for them to find jobs or travel. We're also concerned they could face attack by pro-government vigilantes. They and their families have already suffered threats, intimidation and a vicious smear campaign - none of which have been investigated by the authorities.
Nor will their release prevent such a travesty of justice from happening again. The men's arrest is part of a broader crackdown on freedom of expression in the UAE, where people can be jailed for the peaceful expression of their views - in contravention of international human rights guarantees of free speech.
As the deputy director of our Middle East and North Africa programme said:
'For this release to be more than a public relations exercise, it needs to be matched by the immediate decriminalisation of defamation and an overhaul of the justice system.'
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