UAE Five

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The United Arab Emirates Five are five activists who were arrested in April 2011 on charges of breaking United Arab Emirates law of defamation by insulting heads of state, namely UAE president Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, vice president Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Abu Dhabi crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan through running an anti-government website that express anti-government views.

The five arrested activists were:[1]

On 27 November 2011, bin Ghaith, Dalk, al-Khamis, and Khaleq were sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and Mansoor to three years of imprisonment for being the main architect and mastermind of the website.[2] However, the following day, the five received a presidential pardon from Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed and were released.[3]


Inspired by the growing momentum of the pro-democracy Arab Spring, Emirati activists began to be more vocal in their opposition to the UAE government in early 2011. Bin Ghaith, an "outspoken economics professor", was arrested on 11 April for his call for "democratic and economic reforms".[4] Mansoor, an engineer, blogger, and member of Human Rights Watch, was arrested the same day for signing a petition in favor of an elected parliament,[4] and Dalk, al-Khamis, and Khaleq were detained for their online activities before the end of the month.[1] Following their arrests, UAE government-controlled media reported that the five were "religious extremists" and Iranian foreign agents.[5]

Their arrests received immediate international attention, with continuing coverage in the BBC News,[4][6] The New York Times,[7][8] and various other media. Amnesty International designated the five prisoners of conscience and called for their immediate and unconditional release,[1] recruiting comedians and writers to lobby for their cause at the 2011 Edinburgh Festival.[9] The organization also coined the name "The UAE Five" to refer to the men, which was later adopted by some media sources.[5] Human Rights Watch condemned the trial as "an attack on free expression",[10] and Front Line Defenders, the Index on Censorship, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information also called for the men's release.[10] Because of his academic background, bin Ghaith's trial was also protested by the Committee for Human Rights of the US National Academy of Sciences,[11] Scholars at Risk,[12] and the Committee of Concerned Scientists.[13]

Trial, conviction, and pardon[edit]

Their trial began on 14 June 2011 in Abu Dhabi.[8] A Human Rights Watch spokesman criticized the "public relations campaign" of the UAE government against the defendants, stating that dozens of pro-government demonstrators were attending the trial to protest the five prisoners.[8] The government charged the prisoners with violating article 176 of the UAE Penal Code, which criminalizes insults to the nation's leadership;[1] the prosecutor's case focused on their posts to an online pro-democracy forum, which had by then been shut down and replaced with a travel service.[5] On 18 July, the UAE Five pleaded not guilty.[6] Amnesty International later condemned their trial as "fundamentally unfair" and "marred with irregularities", stating that the defendants had been "denied any meaningful opportunity to challenge the charges and the evidence against them".[14] Human Rights Watch also described the trial as "grossly unfair".[2]

On 3 October, the UAE Five refused to attend a session of their trial, demanding that the hearings be opened to the public and that they be allowed to question witnesses.[15] On 13 November, with the trial still in progress, the five began a hunger strike to protest their continued detention; Human Rights Watch reported that the five were in poor health.[10] On 27 November, the panel of four judges sentenced bin Ghaith, Dalk, al-Khamis, and Khaleq to two years' imprisonment, and Mansoor to three years.[2] Following the announcement of the verdict, a pro-government protester reportedly assaulted a relative of one of the defendants despite the heavy security presence.[10]

The following day, however, the five received a presidential pardon and were released.[3] The office of President Khalifa declined to comment to reporters on the reason for the pardon.[2] Bin Ghaith told reporters that he was glad to be free, but that he felt that the trial had been "a sad moment for our homeland, a beginning of a police state that has tarnished the image of the UAE forever".[2]

Nasser bin Ghaith was rearrested in March 2017 following his comments on Twitter regarding his previous arrest. His charges included “insulting the UAE”.[16] The Amnesty International reported that he was not able to prepare a proper defence as his access to a lawyer was restricted by the UAE authorities. He has been on a hunger strike since 7 October 2018 and has become too weak to even stand, with initial loss of eyesight. Till date there has been no response from the Emirati authorities over his release.[17]

Subsequent arrests[edit]

Ahmed Mansoor Al Shehhi[edit]

Ahmed Mansoor was arrested again on March 19, 2017, at his Ajman home, on charges of publishing false information, inciting hatred, and defaming the UAE online and "seeking to damage the relationship of the UAE with its neighbors". He was also accused of conspiring with a terrorist organization but was found innocent of that charge.[18] He was subsequently charged with 10 years in prison and 1,000,000 Emirati Dirham (approximately US$270,000) fine.[19] Amnesty International criticized the United Arab Emirates for Mansoor's verdict and called the charge a "devastating blow to freedom of expression in the country" and called for the unconditional release of Mansoor.[20]

Mansoor received the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015 prior to his imprisonment.[18]

Following Mansoor's deteriorating health conditions and massive weight loss due to his month-long hunger strike, the Human Rights Watch demanded his immediate release in April 2019 and described his sentence of 10 years in jail as an "unfair trial".[21]

In May 2019, UN human rights experts said Mansoor's condition in the UAE prison and prolonged solitary confinement might constitute torture. They said they were “gravely concerned” for Mansoor's condition in the prison and urged the UAE authorities to provide him with adequate medical support or release him.[22]

Ahmed Abdul Khaleq[edit]

Ahmed Abdul Khaleq was again arrested by authorities for his alleged ties to al-Islah in May 2012, a political organization with roots in the Muslim Brotherhood and is listed as a terrorist organization in the UAE.[23] Since Khaleq was not an Emirati citizen (previously a bedoon and holds a Comorian passport), he was presented with the option of being deported or conviction and imprisonment. Khaleq opted to leave for Thailand, departing for Bangkok on 16 July 2012.[23][24]

Human Rights Watch criticized the arrest, calling the action an "unlawful expulsion" motivated by the government's desire to stifle dissent.[24]


  1. ^ a b c d "UAE: End Trial of Activists Charged with Insulting Officials". Amnesty International. 17 July 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e "UAE pardons jailed activists". Al Jazeera. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Five jailed UAE activists 'receive presidential pardon'". BBC News. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "UAE arrests democracy activists". BBC News. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  5. ^ a b c "The UAE Five: Amnesty urgent action". The Observer. 10 September 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  6. ^ a b "UAE activists plead not guilty to insulting rulers". BBC News. 18 July 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  7. ^ "Developments Across North Africa and the Middle East". The New York Times. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  8. ^ a b c Angela Giuffrida (29 June 2011). "Tensions Beneath the Stability in the U.A.E." The New York Times. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  9. ^ Severin Carrell (7 August 2011). "Comedians and writers lead Amnesty campaign to free jailed UAE activists". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  10. ^ a b c d "UAE: Prison Sentence for Activists an Attack on Free Expression". Human Rights Watch. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  11. ^ "Case Information". Committee for Human Rights of the US National Academy of Sciences. 1 December 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  12. ^ Brendan O'Malley (24 April 2011). "DUBAI: Scholar's detention erodes UAE's reputation". Scholars at Risk. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  13. ^ "CCS Welcomes Release of Professor Nasser Bin Ghaith of the UAE". Committee of Concerned Scientists. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  14. ^ "'UAE Five' Risk Heavy Sentence for Insult" (PDF). Amnesty International. 11 November 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  15. ^ "UAE activists boycott 'unfair' trial". Al Jazeera. 3 October 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  16. ^ "UAE: Prominent academic jailed for 10 years over tweets in outrageous blow to freedom of expression". Amnesty International. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  17. ^ "UAE: jailed economist's health failing after prolonged hunger strike". Amnesty International. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  18. ^ a b "Aux Emirats arabes unis, la dernière voix libre bâillonnée". Mar 22, 2017. Retrieved May 26, 2019 – via Le Monde.
  19. ^ "Emirati convicted for second time of insulting country and leaders". The National. May 30, 2018.
  20. ^ "UAE: Activist Ahmed Mansoor sentenced to 10 years in prison for social media posts". Amnesty International. 31 May 2018.
  21. ^ "UAE: Free Rights Defender Ahmed Mansoor". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  22. ^ "U.N. says UAE activist Mansoor's prison conditions "may constitute torture"". Reuters. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  23. ^ a b "UAE: Bidun blogger forced to leave country, raising alarm after wave of arbitrary arrests". Amnesty International. 16 July 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  24. ^ a b Rania El Gamal (16 July 2012). "UAE stateless rights activist says expelled to Thailand". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 16 July 2012.