Arrested in April of this year, UAE blogger Ahmed Mansour along with economics professor Nasser bin Ghaith, and activists Fahad Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali al-Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq have been sentenced to 2 to 3 years in prison.
They have been on trial for the past six months on charges of insulting the UAE’s rulers and endangering national security.
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Mansour, a communications engineer and published poet, received the longest sentencing of 3 years, while the remaining four activists received 2 year sentences, with no appeal. Since his arrest, Mansour’s family has spoken out about a smear campaign, which had gone so far as to call for the blogger’s execution.
Mansour and the four activists were arrested for signing a petition in March calling for political change in the UAE. In it they demanded constitutional and parliamentary changes and free and fair elections.
As the main defendant of the trial, Mansour was also accused of running a site which provided a platform for others, including his 4 co-defendants, to speak out against the government. The court has ordered the website to be shut down.
According to Global Voices, there have been few reactions online, particularly on social networks, to the arrest of the activists in the UAE. With news of the sentencing today, there has been a small but angered reaction on Twitter under the hashtag #UAE5.
The last post on Mansour’s blog was written shortly before his arrest, detailing a visit he received from the Dubai Police at 4 in the morning.
While the gulf has been relatively immune to the protests sweeping the region, neighbouring Bahrain has witnessed a brutal crackdown on street protests. The political climate in the UAE, however, has remained quiet, with no opposition groups and political parties to speak of, due to a governmental ban.