This article was published on March 28, 2012

Dubai’s Chief of Police wants to prosecute Twitter users who criticize the UAE

Dubai’s Chief of Police wants to prosecute Twitter users who criticize the UAE

Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tami, Chief of Dubai Police, has spoken out against the use of Twitter to criticize the UAE government, calling for legal action to be taken against offenders, Gulf News reports.

Referring to the recent criticism of the UAE government by the country’s tweeting Muslim Brotherhood, Tamim said, “I call on the country’s top member of the judiciary to take legal action against that faction of tweeters, who abused our nation and leaders.”

The Dubai Police has a love-hate relationship with Twitter, using it alongside the BlackBerry Messenger service to communicate with the public. The Dubai Police Twitter account has over 30,000 followers, while Tamim himself is an active Twitter user, with over 68,000 followers.

Tamim’s statements were made during a seminar entitled ‘Social networking websites and its influence on the UAE community’, addressed to an audience of over 500 members of the country’s judicial sector.

He accused the Muslim Brotherhood’s online members of attempting to foment national unrest, saying, “They belittle the symbols of the state and question the integrity of the judiciary… they want to stir the streets against us.”

The UAE has remained relatively immune to the uprisings that the region has witnessed over the past year. Any signs of online dissent have been swiftly dealt with, including the arrest and consequent release on bail of Twitter user Saleh al-Dhufari, as well as the sentencing and release of five UAE bloggers and activists. Authorities in the country have even gone so far as to revoke the citizenship of seven Islamist activists last December.

Tamim has been involved in a rapidly growing dispute with the Muslim Brotherhood, not only in the UAE, but expanding into Egypt as well, and it would appear that Twitter is now firmly lodged in the middle.

The Dubai Police is clearly keeping a close eye on what is being said about the country on the social network, as this isn’t the first time Tamim has targeted users for statements made on Twitter. Just last month a man was arrested from his home, accused of defaming Tamim personally.

Tamim’s aims are far more lofty than just prosecuting Twitter users. He has also launched a ‘clean-up’ campaign: “We aim to clean Twitter’s space from any abuse. We want to make it a social networking medium and not a tool to create disharmony and disintegration,” he said.

The announcement was met with a fair share of criticism and derision on Twitter itself, which begs the question – will Tamim go after UAE Twitter users who criticize his criticisms of Twitter? Only time will tell.