Amnesty International urges UAE to release dissidents held beyond end of jail sentences

Amnesty International urges UAE to release dissidents held beyond end of jail sentences
Amnesty has urged the UAE to release a group of dissidents 'languishing behind bars despite having completed their prison sentences'.
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The men were among 94 Emiratis who were prosecuted in the ‘UAE-94’ case, and among 69 who received unappealable prison sentences [source: Getty]

Amnesty International has called on authorities in the United Arab Emirates to release a group of dissidents who the human rights group said had completed prison terms earlier this year but had not yet been freed.

The international rights organisation said in a statement on Monday that the 10 men were arrested in 2012 as part of the "UAE94", a group of 94 lawyers, human rights defenders and academics sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2013 for plotting to overthrow the government.

The men were due to be released in March and April but continue to be held for "counter-extremism counselling," Amnesty said, citing Emirati exiles and prisoners' family members.

"The UAE’s counterterrorism law is just a smokescreen which the authorities use as a tool of repression and restriction on civic space," the Amnesty statement said.

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UAE authorities did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. They have previously dismissed such accusations as false and unsubstantiated.

The Western-allied UAE, the region's tourism and commercial hub, does not allow political parties and shows little tolerance toward dissent, while freedom of speech is restricted.

The UAE avoided 2011 uprisings in the Arab world but launched a crackdown on Islamists amid concern about a spillover of unrest, including suspected members of the Islah group which was accused of belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

It convicted dozens of Islamists on charges of plotting to overthrow the government in a hearing criticised by rights groups worldwide.