UAE holds reporter for five months without charge over Facebook post
A Jordanian journalist and poet has been held without charge for five months in the UAE for a 2014 Facebook post critical of Emirati authorities, Amnesty International said on Friday.
Tayseer al-Najjar was arrested in December, but his family was not made aware of his whereabouts until authorities allowed him to call his wife five children in February.
His arrest is the latest in a line of activist and journalist arrests that have spiked in the UAE since 2011. Amnesty says more than 100 people have been arrested, detained and prosecuted on “sweeping” national security charges.
Before his arrest, Najjar was working in Abu Dhabi as a journalist and was to start writing for the culture section of the new al-Dar newspaper, due to for launch in January. However, he was prevented from leaving the UAE when he tried to travel home to Jordan on 3 December, Amnesty said. Ten days later, Najjar was summoned to the Security Department in Abu Dhabi and arrested.
According to the family, which is now able to speak to Najjar on a weekly basis, the 43-year-old has been held in solitary confinement and put under “heavy pressure”.
Previous prisoners in Abu Dhabi subjected to “enforced disappearance” have complained of being tortured into giving confessions, Amnesty said.
Najjar’s arrest appears to relate to a Facebook post, written during Israel’s 2014 summer war on Gaza that was critical of the UAE authorities.
“Message to some journalists and writers who do not like the Gazan resistance,” he wrote. “There is no two rights in one case, but the right one is the Gazan resistance and all else is bad - such as Israel, the UAE, [Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al] Sisi and other systems that are no longer ashamed of shame itself.”
While no official charges have been filed, Najjar says security officials have accused him of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is seen as a terrorist organisation in the Emirates, and of collaborating with Qatar.
Amnesty is urging UAE authorities to release Najjar immediately or to officially charge him and clearly explain the allegations against him.
The organisation is also calling on him to be protected from torture, offered medical treatment and given prompt access to a lawyer.
In February, shortly before he was allowed to contact his family for the first time, Human Rights Watch warned that Najjar’s case bore “all the marks of the UAE’s shameful practice of forced disappearances and incommunicado detentions”.
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director said: “We don’t know why Najjar is missing but we know that he was last seen in police headquarters of a country with zero tolerance for free speech.”
Meanwhile, rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Friday urged Omani authorities to release a journalist held in solitary confinement since his arrest more than two week ago on unknown charges.
RSF "is very concerned about the arbitrary detention of Omani journalist and writer Sulaiman al-Moamari, who has been held in solitary confinement ever since his arrest by intelligence officials on 28 April without any official reason being given", a statement said.
It quoted local media as saying the 42-year-old heads the cultural department at Omani state radio and is popular due to "his writings and pro-democracy views".