Last updated: 18 July, 2011

UAE activists in court for insulting officials

Lawyers for five Emirati activists on trial for insulting top officials presented their arguments to an Abu Dhabi court on Monday as hundreds of government supporters protested outside, a local daily said.

“Defence lawyers of Emirati bloggers, charged with instigation, breaking laws and perpetrating acts that pose a threat to state security, undermining the public order, opposing the government system and insulting the president and the vice president, presented their case on Monday,” Gulf News reported.

The hearing, which was the second in the trial, was held behind closed doors, the daily reported on its website.

Outside, “hundreds of Emiratis… gathered outside the courthouse to support the UAE leaders and condemning the bloggers,” it said.

“We are all Khalifa, Khalifa is a red line,” banners read, referring to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the United Arab Emirates’ president.

Blogger Ahmed Mansoor, Nasser bin Gaith, an economics lecturer at the Sorbonne University in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, and activists Fahid Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq were detained in April and went on trial before the State Security Court on June 14.

Rights groups had on Sunday called for the UAE to call off the trial.

Amnesty International, the Arabic Network For Human Rights Information, Front Line Defenders and Human Rights Watch all called on the UAE authorities to abandon the trial and release the men immediately.

“The UAE government is using defamation as a pretext to prosecute activists for peacefully expressing their beliefs about the way their country should be run,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director, Philip Luther.

The Arab world has been swept by a wave of pro-reform protests that have toppled the long-time presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, and also spread to Libya, Syria, Yemen, and the tiny but strategic Gulf kingdom of Bahrain.

The UAE, however, has so far avoided protests.