Skip to main content

UAE dissident secretly deported from Indonesia to Abu Dhabi: Rights group

An Islamist convicted in absentia by the UAE has been deported to Abu Dhabi from Indonesia according to a rights group
A photo of Suwaidi taken while he was in Indonesian custody, sent to MEE by an activist (MEE)

An Emirati political dissident has been secretly deported from Indonesia to the United Arab Emirates, activists told Middle East Eye on Monday.

Abdulrahman Khalifa bin Subaih al-Suwaidi, 50, was detained by Indonesian authorities on 21 October for living illegally in the country. Police found him living on the island of Batam in the South China Sea, in possession of a fake identification card.

Suwaidi was in the process of applying for asylum in Indonesia, after having been sentenced to serve 15 years in prison by UAE authorities.

He was convicted of sedition in a mass trial of political dissidents in July 2013, in which 94 members of the Islamist Islah organisation were accused of plotting to seize power in the authoritarian Gulf state.

Dubai-born Suwaidi served as an Islah board member between 1985 and 1994, and again from 2008 until 2011. The Islah trial was criticised by human rights groups, who said detainees had been tortured and subjected to unfair legal proceedings, allegations UAE authorities strongly denied at the time.

After Indonesian authorities arrested Suwaidi in October, Emirati officials requested that he be repatriated to the UAE, according to the Geneva-based rights group the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR).

The request was initially blocked because, in line with a UAE-Indonesian bilateral agreement signed in 2014, deportations to and from either country must be approved by local courts.

On 18 December, after his term of detention expired, Suwaidi was cleared for release by local Indonesian authorities.

Suwaidi’s lawyer was told that his client’s release would take place by 20 December, an activist, who wanted to remain anonymous because of safety concerns, told MEE.

However, late on 18 December, he was allegedly seized by a joint force of Indonesian and Emirati agents.

“At 10pm (1530 GMT) on Friday evening, 11 people burst into the police station in Batam (5 people from the Emirati embassy and 6 people from the Indonesian secret services),” the ICJHR said in a statement on Monday. “They kidnapped Mr bin Subaih from the police station in front of everybody including his lawyer.”

He was then allegedly taken on a “private jet” at 2am (1930 GMT) and flown to Abu Dhabi, according to ICJHR.

The ICJHR claim that no legal process was observed in Suwaidi’s alleged deportation and have accused Indonesian officials of accepting bribes from Emirati authorities.

The UAE embassy in London could not be reached for comment on Monday.

If Suwaidi’s deportation to Abu Dhabi is confirmed, he will likely be imprisoned to serve out his 15 year sentence for sedition.

The ICJHR expressed concern for his wellbeing and called on Indonesian authorities to seek clarification from Abu Dhabi on Suwaidi’s status.

“The ICJHR considers that this kidnapping and illegal extradition is really a serious violation of international treaties and […] is concerned about Mr bin Subaih’s whereabouts. By extraditing him in this manner, the Indonesian authorities will be responsible for Mr bin Subaih’s fate if he is held in incommunicado detention, subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.” 

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.