UAE jails activist for 3 years over critical Twitter post and Islah links

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The Federal Supreme Court sentenced Osama al-Najjar to three years in prison for criticising Sharjah's ruler and for Islah membership

The UAE has sentenced activists to prison terms over tweets deemed damaging to national security (AFP)
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Friday 13 February 2015 5:15 UTC
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The UAE on Tuesday sentenced the son of a jailed political activist to three years in prison and fined him 500,000 AED ($136,000) for using Twitter to criticise the ruler of Sharjah emirate.

Osama al-Najjar, 26, was also convicted of belonging to “the clandestine al-Islah Group” according to Gulf News and was sentenced in a court session lasting just 10 minutes at the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi.

“The young man [Najjar] stood accused of joining the secret organisation [Islah] and establishing and managing a personal profile on a social network with the aim of disseminating false claims and inappropriate messages as well as damaging the reputation of UAE institutions” an official government statement read.

“He was also charged with communicating with external organisations to provide misleading information about the status of those convicted in the case of the secret organisation and about their living conditions in prison, which led to the confiscation of the electronic devices used in the crime and the closure of his profile page.”

The conviction cannot be appealed.

Islah, or Reform, was banned by UAE authorities on 15 November when they released a list of 83 terror organisations, which included international charity Islamic Relief and advocacy group the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Authorities have accused Islah of being linked to the also banned Muslim Brotherhood and convicted dozens of its members for attempting to overthrow the state.

Islah has denied having links to the Brotherhood, although said it shares its ideology, and decried authorities for locking up members they say were engaged in peaceful calls for democratic reform in the UAE.

Osama al-Najjar was initially arrested in March this year after he used Twitter to tell the ruler of Sharjah - Sheikh Sultan III bin Mohammed al-Qasimi - that the families of Emirati political prisoners would continue to fight for their release from prison.

Translation: Your Highness, we do not hate our country and do not forget the injustice of the oppressor even if our mothers do not tell us. The people responsible for imprisoning and harassing my father for the past 20 months owe him.

His father – Hossein al-Najjar – was given a 10-year prison sentence in July 2013 after being convicted along with 68 others of being members of a banned organisation - Islah - and attempting to overthrow the state. Osama al-Najjar had defended those convicted in the trial as political prisoners and accused authorities of torturing detainees - allegations backed up by rights groups but refuted by the UAE government.

After being arrested earlier this year the Gulf Centre for Human Rights also alleged that Osama al-Najjar was tortured while held at a “secret detention centre”.

UAE authorities have denied torturing prisoners in detention centres and defended its judicial system against accusations of unfair trials.