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'UAE 94': Families urge release of 51 detainees held past jail terms

List by Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre says people are being held beyond their terms, which began expiring in 2019
A closeup shot shows the facade of the Dubai Courts building during a hearing on 4 April 2010.
A closeup shot shows facade of the Dubai courts building, on 4 April 2010 (AFP)

The families of more than 50 people sentenced for plotting to overthrow the United Arab Emirates government are calling on Abu Dhabi to release them, saying they are being held months and years after their jail terms have ended.

According to a list compiled by the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre and seen by Reuters, 51 people are being held beyond their terms, which began expiring in 2019.

The detainees were a part of the "UAE 94" case, which was a mass trial in 2013 involving 94 people accused of trying to overthrow the Emirati government, a charge the defendants vehemently denied.

Two years earlier, the 94 individuals had reportedly signed a petition calling on the Emirati government to institute a set of democratic reforms.

The signatories were said to have called for an elected Federal National Council with full regulatory powers and universal suffrage, a retreat of the security state, and basic human rights within the existing framework of a constitutional monarchy.

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The case resulted in the conviction of 69 people - eight in absentia - who received sentences as long as 15 years. While more than three-quarters of the prisoners have completed their sentences, they still remain in arbitrary detention because authorities refuse to release them.

"We will not accept this injustice for our people. We want those people to be released immediately," Ahmed al-Nuaimi, whose brother was sentenced to ten years, told Reuters.

US congressman calls for 'UAE 94' prisoner's release
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He said his brother was set to be released in March 2023, but he is still in detention.

Jenan al-Marzooqi, whose father still remains in detention after the end of his ten-year sentence, told Reuters that her family has been subject to various restrictions.

"The UAE not only punishes those who peacefully dissent, but harasses even those related to them," she said.

Abdulsalam Mohamed Darwish al-Marzooqi, who previously served as head of the family counselling section of the Dubai courts, was handed a 10-year prison sentence for being a part of the petition and has been held at al-Razeen prison in Abu Dhabi since March 2013.

MEE reached out to the UAE embassy for comment, but they did not respond in time for publication.

Release detainees 'immediately' 

On Monday, a small number of countries raised the issue of detainees at a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, including the US envoy who called for the Emirati government to release "all individuals detained for exercising their freedom of expression".

Last week, 42 organisations called on the UAE to “immediately and unconditionally” release jailed human rights defenders, activists and political dissidents. Their statement came ahead of the Cop28 UN climate change conference which the UAE will host in late November.  

In 2020, US congressman Jim McGovern called for the release of Marzooqi, an Emirati prisoner of conscience, who was arrested and imprisoned during the trial. He said Marzooqi’s human rights "have been violated repeatedly since his warrantless arrest in 2012".

"Mr al-Marzooqi's case seems to be an example of the UAE's mistreatment of individuals who oppose the government, feeding doubts about the country's commitment to the rule of law," McGovern told MEE at the time.

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