Skip to main content

Man faces 10 months jail for tweets about trial in UAE

By Ben Brumfield. Caroline Faraj and Saad Abedine, CNN
updated 6:47 AM EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The son of a man on trial tweeted distortions of proceedings, a court ruled
  • Rights activists say his treatment reflects how the government is attempting to hide the trial
  • 94 dissidents are accused of being Muslim extremists trying to overthrow the government
  • Human Rights Watch says the dissidents are critics of a greatly unelected government

(CNN) -- Comments posted to his Twitter account about an ongoing trial have landed an Abu Dhabi man in jail for 10 months, according to a state news agency.

Abdulla al-Hadidi's father is one of 94 dissidents facing legal proceedings that began in early March in the United Arab Emirates.

Prosecutors accuse the dissidents of trying to overthrow the government and being connected to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in the UAE. But human rights activists say the defendants are government critics and accuse the court of hiding the trial from unbiased international observers and journalists.

According to the state news agency WAM, a misdemeanor court ruled that al-Hadidi lied about the proceedings in his writings on social media.

"He published arguments about court proceedings and circumstances surrounding the arrest of the accused with dishonesty and bad faith," the agency reported, citing the justice department.

Trial on the down-low?

But Human Right Watch has said al-Hadidi's treatment at the hands of the legal system highlights government attempts to keep the mass trial of those who challenge the authority of a greatly unelected government, which is headed by immensely rich royal families, out of public view.

This includes banning the handful of relatives, who had previously been allowed to watch the trial, from the courtroom, Human Rights Watch said.

"The day before his detention, officials from the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi informed al-Hadidi and several other relatives of the defendants that the authorities would no longer allow family members to attend the trial," the human rights group said.

The court has admitted only local media to cover the trial. Only two members from each detainee's family were allowed in.

Royal rulers and opposition

Royal leaders have control over the executive branch of government and over half of the legislative branch, known as the Federal National Council, according to the CIA World Factbook. The other half of the council is democratically elected.

Human Rights Watch claimed in March that 64 of the detainees had been held at undisclosed locations for up to a year and denied access to lawyers until February.

The group said that two prominent human rights lawyers, Mohammed al-Roken and Mohammed al-Mansoori, are among them, as well as judges, teachers and student leaders.

According the charges, "they launched, established and ran an organisation seeking to oppose the basic principles of the UAE system of governance and to seize power."

Many believe UAE authorities are clamping down on freedom of expression since the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East staring in early 2011.

Unelected ruling families in oil-rich Gulf countries such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have sought to prevent popular uprisings. Bahrain has also been criticized for its heavy-handed use of force.

Political parties and demonstrations are banned in the UAE, and recently an academic from the London School of Economics and Political Science was barred entry to the country.

The academic was set to speak at a conference on the political situation in Bahrain.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:18 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
This is how the two U.S. aid workers infected with Ebola will be evacuated from west Africa.
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
While aspects of the fighting in Gaza resemble earlier clashes, this time feels different, writes military analyst Rick Francona.
updated 2:29 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
How did al Qaeda recruit a former Florida high school footballer?
updated 7:08 AM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Flowers, a teddy bear and the smells of jet fuel and death haunt the MH17 crash site.
updated 11:54 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
If India and the U.S. were Facebook friends, the relationship between them would be "complicated." Can John Kerry's visit change that?
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
updated 8:48 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
updated 2:35 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Take a look inside Airbus' new -- and surprisingly quiet -- A350XWB.
updated 11:31 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
What're you doing after work today? If you lived in these cities you could head to the BEACH!
ADVERTISEMENT