UAE Attorney General: sympathy with Qatar now a crime
The United Arab Emirates’ Justice Ministry is warning social media users that they can face prison time and fines for offering sympathy for Qatar amid a growing diplomatic crisis in the Middle East.
The ministry put out a statement on social media Wednesday saying those found guilty could face three to 15 years in prison and fines starting from 500,000 dirhams ($136,000).
The ministry quoted UAE Attorney General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi making the warning, saying it came over Qatar’s “hostile and reckless policy.”
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While liberal compared to much of the Middle East, the UAE has tough cybercrime and slander laws under which people can be arrested, imprisoned and deported for taking photographs without the consent of those shown or being insulting.
The United Arab Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and other Arab nations severed ties with Qatar and have cut off land, sea and air access. They accuse the energy-rich Gulf nation of supporting terror groups, charges denied by Qatar.
While the announcement does include giving Qatar online support, the boundaries of what constitutes sympathy or support are undefined and blurred.
This leaves people in the UAE vulnerable if it comes to fact-checking the government's narrative against Qatar, even when it includes contradictory accusations against Doha without evidence.