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Man jailed in UAE for sharing poem 'ridiculing' Emiratis killed in Yemen

Omani national was sent to prison in the UAE for violating the country's cybercrimes law after he shared a poem criticising the war in Yemen
Emiratis welcoming a UAE military convoy after it returned to the country from Yemen (AFP)

An Omani man has been jailed in the United Arab Emirates for sharing a poem deemed to be mocking of Emirati soldiers killed fighting in Yemen.

Saleh Mohammed al-Awaisi was sentenced to three years in prison and fined Dh 50,000 ($13,612) “for forwarding a WhatsApp message that mocked the UAE and its martyrs”, Dubai-based daily The National reported on Monday.

The National described Awaisi as an “illiterate camel herder” and said he had shared an audio recording of a poem that “ridiculed the country and its soldiers killed in Yemen”.

The content of the poem has not been released by UAE authorities but the National said it mocked Emirati troops killed in Yemen as “traitors and cowards”.

He will be deported at the end of his prison sentence.

The UAE is the second-largest contributor to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen to push back Houthi rebels and reinstall the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Dozens of Emirati soldiers have been killed in Yemen, although no official death toll has been released by UAE authorities.

The UAE has sent an estimated 1,500 ground troops to fight in Yemen, as part of a Gulf coalition force that includes upwards of 10,000 soldiers. The Emirati contingent is believed to be commanded by a group of Australian mercenaries, as reported by Middle East Eye in December last year.  

Emiratis killed in Yemen have been treated to state funerals at home, with leaders and newspapers referring to them as “martyrs”.

Awaisi was tried in the UAE’s Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi where he was convicted of violating the country’s cybercrime law.

Human rights groups have criticised the UAE’s cybercrime law, which was passed in 2012, as stifling dissent, with Human Rights Watch saying it is an “attack on free speech”.

The legislation governs all online communications, prohibiting criticism of the UAE’s leaders and barring calls for political reform in the authoritarian Gulf state.