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UAE: Son of exiled dissident dies without parents because of travel ban

Muhammad al-Nuaimi's father had launched an online campaign demanding Abu Dhabi lift the travel ban that kept his family apart
Muhammad al Nuaimi was separated from his father and family despite needing specialist care for his condition (Screengrab/Twitter)

Muhammad al-Nuaimi, the son of exiled Emirati political dissident and academic Ahmed al-Nuaimi, died without his parents present on Friday at the Al Qassimi Hospital in Sharjah, according to a rights group.

Muhammad, who was placed under a travel ban due to his father’s activism, suffered from quadriplegia and cerebral palsy. His parents and five siblings, who live in exile in London, were not present at his bedside. 

Earlier this year, his father launched an online campaign demanding that Abu Dhabi lifts a travel ban imposed on his sick son so that they can be reunited. 

Nuaimi repeatedly reiterated that his son, who was staying with his grandmother, needed specialist care. 

Nuaimi previously told the Arabi21 website that his case began in 2012. He was in Britain on private business when the widespread arrest of individuals calling for reform took place. 

He remained in self-imposed exile in the UK fearing persecution, with five out of six of his children joining him. However, Muhammed was unable to travel at the time due to his illness. A travel ban was later placed on Muhammed, leaving him unable to join the rest of his family in the UK.  ​​

In March, the MENA Rights Group and Alqst organisation for human rights submitted a letter of allegation to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, as well as to the Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, urging for them to intervene and lift the travel ban on Muhammad. 

Tributes have poured in from activists and human rights defenders online, with many of them expressing their devastation at the news and condemning the UAE authorities. 

Widespread crackdown

According to the Emirates Centre for Human Rights, Nuaimi's brother Khaled was arrested in the UAE by a group of armed state security officers on 16 July 2012, after having his home raided. The rights group said no judicial warrant was issued and no explanation was provided for his arrest. 

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The rights group also revealed that while he was in custody and under interrogation, Khaled al-Nuaimi was denied a bed to sleep on, pens and papers or sunlight. His family also faced threats during his interrogations, and were forced to sign papers not to speak out on social media networks. 

In a statement posted to Twitter, the rights group We Record said that Abu Dhabi has repeatedly targeted the families of activists and human rights defenders. 

“The Emirati state has targeted the families of activists and human rights defenders through various measures, including the revocation of nationality, denial of travel and the reunification of families,” the statement read. 

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Emirati authorities have continued to invest in a soft power strategy aimed at painting the country as progressive and tolerant, while continuing to unjustly imprison activists and dissidents.  

“Hundreds of activists, academics, and lawyers are serving lengthy sentences in UAE prisons, in many cases following unfair trials on vague and broad charges that violate their rights to free expression and association,” the report states.