Financial Times - By Simeon Kerr in Dubai and Camilla Hall in Abu Dhabi - Dubai police have arrested a man for criticising the security forces, as the United Arab Emirates steps up its clampdown on political dissent.
Saleh al-Dhufairi, who lives in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, was detained by plainclothed security officers and taken to a Dubai police station in the early hours of Tuesday morning, according to his brother-in-law, Mohammed Mansouri.
He was arrested for “promoting ideas, whether in speech, writing or any other means, that cause sedition and harm national unity and social peace”, according to a statement published by the UAE state news agency.
Mr Dhufairi used his twitter account to criticise the country’s internal security forces for interfering with civil rights. He singled out the decision last year to revoke the nationality of seven Islamists, as well as a more recent move to cancel the residence visas of Syrians who had taken part in a protest outside their embassy in Dubai.
Mr Mansouri, a well-known rights activist, said the family of Mr Dhufairi had been told that he would be transferred to the public prosecution in Dubai on Wednesday.
The government has moved to clamp down on voices of dissent in the wealthy United Arab Emirates, which has not seen the kind of public protests that have taken place elsewhere in the region.
Dubai’s police chief, Dhahi Khalfan al-Tamim, threatened to arrest a prominent Doha-based cleric who raised the case of the Syrians expelled from the UAE. An avid tweeter, the outspoken police chief has also identified Islamists as a major threat to the Gulf.
Last year, five democracy activists were sentenced to up to five years’ imprisonment for insulting the UAE’s leadership. They were later pardoned by the president.
The case of the so-called UAE5, which sparked international censure from human rights groups, was followed by a decision last year to revoke the nationality of seven Islamists for unspecified security crimes.
Analysts say the government is concerned about activists in the country who they believe are loyal to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement whose influence is rising across the region in the aftermath of the Arab spring.
Reports emerged on Wednesday that another UAE activist, Juma al-Felasi, was beaten by unknown men in Dubai on Tuesday.
Ahmed Mansour, one of the UAE5, said Mr Felasi was driving in Dubai when another vehicle collided with his. Occupants of the second car then attacked him, accusing him of being against the government. Soon after, others joined the attack.
A police spokesman confirmed around five people had been detained following the incident, saying more details would be available later.
Mr Mansour, who was subject to online threats from pro-government loyalists during his detention last year, said the incident is another example of thuggery against activists.
He said he has filed 17 cases to the police, detailing threats and defamation against himself, but says nothing has been done.