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UAE court upholds 10-year prison sentence for activist Ahmed Mansoor

Mansoor, a pro-democracy campaigner, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for criticising the Emirati government on social media
Human rights groups have called on the Emiratis to release Mansoor immediately (Youtube)

A court in the United Arab Emirates has upheld a 10-year prison sentence for human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, a decision that Amnesty International said shows "there is no space for free expression" in the Gulf country.

Citing two anonymous sources, Reuters news agency said the UAE's state security court upheld the 10-year jail term and a fine of approximately $270,000 (Dh1 million) against Mansoor on Monday.

Mansoor, a pro-democracy campaigner who was jailed for criticising the Emirati government on social media, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in May for posts he made on Facebook and Twitter after he was convicted of publishing false information, among other charges.

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"Today’s court decision to uphold Ahmed Mansoor’s conviction and 10-year prison sentence confirms there is no space for free expression in the United Arab Emirates,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East research director, in a statement.

"Ahmed Mansoor’s only ‘crime’ was to express his peaceful opinions on social media, and it is outrageous that he is being punished with such a heavy prison sentence."

Mansoor, a 49-year-old electrical engineer and poet, was among five activists convicted of insulting the UAE's rulers in 2011. They were pardoned the same year.

He was arrested again in March 2017 at his home in Ajman, on charges of publishing false information and rumours, promoting a sectarian and hate-incited agenda, and using social media to "harm national unity and social harmony and damage the country's reputation".

After Monday's court decision, UAE-based newspaper The National also reported that Mansoor will spend three years under surveillance after his release.

Amnesty's Maalouf said the court's decision is final and cannot be appealed, and she called on the Emirati authorities to quash his conviction, "and release him immediately and unconditionally".

United Nations human rights experts, the European Parliament, Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have urged the UAE to release Mansoor and condemned his detention as a violation of freedom of expression and opinion.

In 2015, Mansoor received the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, an annual prize awarded by a panel of international human rights NGOs, for his work documenting the human rights situation in the UAE.