Four UAE political dissidents quietly labelled as 'terrorists': HRW
UAE authorities have designated four prominent exiled dissidents as supporters of "terrorism" in a move that has further tightened the screws on activism in the Gulf state, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said on Sunday.
Exiled Emirati activists Hamad Al-Shamsi, the executive director of the Emirati human rights organisation Emirates Detainees Advocacy Center and Mohammed Saqr Al-Zaabi, the former president of the Emirates Jurists Association - a prominent rights group until it was dissolved by authorities in 2011, were among the four declared as "supporters of terrorism" in September, HRW said.
Additionally, Ahmed Al-Shaiba Al-Nuaimi, a writer and brother of prominent imprisoned political activist Khaled Al-Shaiba Al-Nuaimi and Saeed Al-Tenaiji, Emirati researcher and heads both the Gulf Center for Studies and Dialogue and the Emirati Association Against Normalisation with Israel were also accused of supporting "terrorism", the rights watchdog said.
The move meant that all four had their assets frozen and property confiscated. Their UAE-based family members were also banned from all forms of communications with them.
The activists told HRW that they only found out about their designation after the UAE's cabinet issued the decision. It is unclear whether they have missed the 60 day period for a right to appeal.
"The UAE has shown time and again the nefarious ways that it uses counterterrorism as a guise for suppressing legitimate dissent and criticism," said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW.
"For many years the UAE has sent a crystal-clear message to its citizens and residents: You're either with us or you're a terrorist."
The four are among dozens of Emirati activists, public servants, and academics who called for political reforms during the height of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.
They belong to a group of 94 political activists, known as the UAE94, which UAE authorities accused of "crimes against national security" in 2013.
The UAE94 were allegedly connected to the now-outlawed Al-Islah, a political Islamist organisation with links to the Muslim Brotherhood which is one of the oldest movements in the UAE.
Al-Islah says it focuses on educational and charitable reform, while the authorities accuse them of being linked to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and conspiring against the UAE's state security.
The UAE has been accused of leading a movement against pro-democracy and political Islamist groups across the Middle East, resulting in the overthrow of democratically-elected governments.