Call for end of trial of democracy petitioners
The five activists, who include prominent political blogger and member of Human Rights Watch's Middle East advisory committee Ahmed Mansoor and university lecturer Nasser bin Ghaith, have been detained since April for insulting the authorities and criticising and undermining the government in relation to the their online writing and activism. All have used the Internet to call for increased political rights in the U.A.E.
The five pleaded not guilty on 14 June during a closed-door hearing in Abu Dhabi's federal Supreme Court.
According to Human Rights Watch, the trial follows a politically motivated campaign of intimidation and harassment against pro-democracy advocates after they signed a petition published in March that sought constitutional and parliamentary changes in U.A.E.
Local news reports said that dozens of pro-government protesters holding banners and flags gathered outside the courtroom and shouted slogans condemning the activists. The next hearing is scheduled for 18 July.
"U.A.E. rulers are prosecuting these activists solely for advocating democratic reforms," said Human Rights Watch. "The authorities should end this shameful crackdown on peaceful dissent."